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Does Malaria cause poverty or is it vice versa

March 11, 2010 - 14:16 -- Patrick Sampao

This topic has had its fair share of debates in many malaria forums. However it has always remained as a case of the chicken and egg, one thing is however clear about the phenomena, that the two share one thing in common, that both of them thrive within each other.


Malaria may rarely hit the headlines, but it is certainly one of Africa's greatest killers, claiming at least one million lives annually in the sub Sahara region alone. Though not directly there is reason to believe that it is partly responsible for Africa’s impoverishment woes.


Malaria is often referred to as the epidemic of the poor. Whilst the disease is in large part determined mainly by climate and ecology, and not poverty per se, the impact of malaria takes its toll on the poorest, those least able to afford preventative measures and medical treatment.


According to UN economists, malaria is one of the top four causes of poverty. Every year it kills 3 million people and is estimated to cost the African economy $30 billion per year. Professor Jeffrey Sachs author of “End of Poverty” says ending malaria is the most important priority in lifting Africa out of poverty.


An example of the connection between malaria and poverty is the sale of bad drugs to poor people. According to WHO estimates, 20% of the people who die from malaria, die because they took bad drugs. Poor people may not afford proper antimalaria medication unless the medicines are subsidized.


The indirect costs of malaria include lost productivity or income associated with illness or death. This might be expressed as the cost of lost workdays or absenteeism from formal employment and the value of unpaid work done in the home by both men and women. In the case of death, the indirect cost includes the discounted future lifetime earnings of those who die.


The direct costs include a combination of personal and public expenditures on both prevention and treatment of the disease. Personal expenditures include individual or family spending on insecticide treated mosquito nets (ITNs), doctors' fees, anti-malarial drugs, transport to health facilities, support for the patient and sometimes an accompanying family member during hospital stays.


Public expenditures include spending by government on maintaining health facilities and health care infrastructure, publicly managed vector control, education and research. In some countries with a heavy malaria burden, the disease may account for as much as 40% of public health expenditure, 30-50% of inpatient admissions, and up to 50% of outpatient visits.


African leaders should therefore endeavor to eliminate malaria. Such an achievement would save millions of lives and eradicate the vicious cycle of poverty and disease that continues to grip the continent by saving the $30 billion per year that it loses in productivity and medical costs every year.




Rajas Sirvoicar's picture
Submitted by Rajas Sirvoicar on

It is illiteracy that is the bane of the society. Malaria is only one of the many problems faced by poor people in the world. There is a very high level of misappropriations of funds in the poor countries. This is due to the ignorance emanating from illiteracy. Poor quality drugs (accounting for 20% of deaths, as stated) are a result of a corrupt system. Poor people cannot fight back due to gross ignorance and apathy.

Mark Benedict's picture
Submitted by Mark Benedict on

Several blogs and comments posted recently on MalariaWorld highlight the perspective that governments and donors are responsible for controlling and treating malaria. The individual plays the role of a helpless victim waiting for the government to be less corrupt, more progressive, more generous etc. Regardless of the country we live in, we all hope for this.

Do individuals at risk have any role in reducing the risk of malaria for their community and themselves? Can individuals and villages act without external assistance?

Freeing communities of malaria might mean freeing themselves from the expectation of uncertain aid.

Is there anything that communities can do on their own? If not, they may die waiting when solutions are in their hands.