Malnutrition and malaria – on their own they are two of the leading causes of child death in the world. In 2012 alone, malaria was responsible for 627,000 child deaths, while acute malnutrition is responsible for 1 million child deaths each year. Together they make a deadly combination.
In many countries the period of the hunger gap, when acute malnutrition is at its peak, coincides with the rainy season, when mosquitoes breed and the number of malaria cases shoots up.
It’s a vicious circle. Malaria leaves a person vulnerable to malnutrition, and malnutrition leaves them vulnerable to malaria. And of course a person’s nutritional status affects how they recover from infection; so malnutrition both raises the risk of contracting a disease such as malaria and worsens its outcome, which in turn leaves the patient exhausted, deprived of nourishment, and vulnerable to infection.
While we have made significant progress in both the prevention and treatment of malaria, malnutrition continues to hampers efforts eradicate this disease and puts children at increased risk of death. Malnourished children are two times more likely to die than non-malnourished children.
Unless we tackle both malnutrition and malaria we will not secure a safer and healthier future for millions of vulnerable children worldwide. While the number of under-five deaths has been halved since 1990, 6.9 million children still die every year, mostly from preventable conditions like malnutrition or malaria.
So this World Malaria Day – given the deadly combination between malnutrition and malaria – I encourage you to sign the Generation Nutrition petition calling on leaders all over the world to take urgent action to reduce the number of children suffering from acute malnutrition by millions every year!