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Health & Economy are Inseparable

Health and the economy are inseparable. Create a healthy society and you have a flourishing economy and vice versa. How better to address this than to look at the implications of malaria on the health sector?

Considered one Africa’s top killer diseases, malaria’s economic implications cannot be overlooked. It not only exerts a heavy human toll in the areas where it is most prevalent but is also highly corrosive of the broader economic fabric of these regions. In the most heavily affected regions, malaria accounts for 40% of public health spending, according to a 2003, Roll Back Malaria Report: ‘The scarcity of international aid for malaria control. Whilst the percentage may have come down due to various malaria elimination interventions, malaria saps into already-scarce resources and impedes long-term human capital formation.

In 2012, malaria is estimated to have taken 627 000 lives mostly those of children under five years of age in Africa according to WHO. This means 1300 young lives lost to malaria every day – a strong reminder that victory over this ancient foe is still a long way off.

“The fact that so many people are dying from mosquito bites is one of the greatest tragedies of the 21st century.” says, Dr. Margaret Chan Director-General World Health Organization, in WHO Malaria report 2013.

Malaria reduces growth directly by incapacitating the workforce and indirectly through effects such as reduced labor mobility, less scope for specialization, and poorer skills matching. Direct impact is also felt in affected countries through spending on the malaria treatment measures.

WHO estimates that a total of US$ 2.5 billion were committed in 2012 in both international and domestic funding for malaria control. In a continent where the average spending power is below $1 dollar, such figures could be used to create booming economic prowess and elimination of poverty.

“It has long been recognized that a malarious community is an impoverished community.” Weller could have said the same for malarious countries, noted, Nobel Laureate in Medicine T.H. Weller (1958: 497). The high levels of malaria in poor countries are not mainly a consequence of poverty. Malaria is very geographically specific. Yet the interconnection between the two is inseparable. Malaria can cause poverty and broken societies, thus elimination of malaria will be a step in the reduction and later elimination of poverty.

The basic economic case for malaria eradication rests on the economic output that would be generated if individuals were not killed or incapacitated by malaria and they were therefore able to enter or remain in the productive workforce.

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