Malaria Costs Africa $300Bn

African Business, June 2000 | Go to article overview
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Malaria Costs Africa $300Bn

Africa's GDP would be up to $100bn greater this year if malaria had been eliminated years ago, according to new research by Harvard, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the WHO.

The findings of the report was presented at the 'Roll Back Malaria' conference, the first ever summit to focus on the disease. The Heads of State of 20 African nations and the executive directors of the African Development Bank, World Bank, UNDP, UNICEF, UNESCO and WHO were invited to hear the findings. The Summit was hosted in Abuja, Nigeria by President Olusegun Obasanjo, and was co-sponsored by WHO.

"The evidence strongly suggests that malaria obstructs overall economic development in Africa," said Dr Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Centre for International Development at Harvard University. "Since 1990, the per person GDP in many sub-Saharan African countries has declined and malaria is an important reason for this poor economic performance."

According to statistical estimates in the report, sub-Saharan Africa's GDP would be up to 32% greater this year if malaria had been eliminated 35 years ago. This would represent up to $100bn added to sub-Saharan Africa's current GDP of $300bn. This extra $100bn would be, by comparison, nearly five times greater than all development aid provided to Africa last year.

According to the report malaria slows economic growth in Africa by up to 1.3% each year. This slow-down in economic growth due to malaria is over and above the more readily observed short run costs of the disease. Since sub-Saharan Africa's GDP is around $300bn, the short-term benefits of malaria control can reasonably be estimated at between $3bn and $l2bn per year.

"Malaria is hurting the living standards of Africans today and is also preventing the improvement of living standards for future generations," said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director General of the World Health Organization. This is an unnecessary and preventable handicap on the continent's economic development."

Cost effective treatment

The report also finds that Malaria-free countries average three times higher GDP per person than malarious countries even after allowing for government policy, geographical location, and other factors which impact on economic well-being.

One healthy year of life is gained for every $1 to $8 spent on effectively treating malaria cases, which makes the malaria treatment as cost-effective a public health investment as measles vaccinations.

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