Malaria is a life-threatening disease primarily found in tropical countries. It is both preventable and curable. However, without prompt diagnosis and effective treatment, a case of uncomplicated malaria can progress to a severe form of the disease, which is often fatal without treatment.

Ten key facts on malaria

  1. Among all communicable diseases, malaria is the third largest killer of children between the ages of one month and five years, following pneumonia and diarrhea.
  2. Nearly 300,000 children under the age of five die of malaria died in 2016 equivalent to nearly 800 young lives lost each day.
  3. In the years between 2000 and 2015, the mortality rate for malaria fell by 60% and the number of malaria cases dropped by 37% globally. During those 15 years, 6.2 million deaths were averted, including the deaths of 5.9 million children under five. 
  4. Progress on malaria is beginning to show signs of stagnation.  In 2016, 91 countries reported a combined total of 216 million malaria cases – 5 million more than in 2015. Rwanda and Nigeria together saw an increase of over 1.5 million cases, while DRC recorded an additional 500,000 cases in 2015-2016.
  5. An estimated 90 per cent of malaria deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, with 407,000 deaths in 2016.
  6. Malaria preys upon the vulnerable: children under five years of age, the poorest and most marginalized, pregnant women and their unborn children. Malaria in pregnancy contributes significantly to deaths of mothers and young children, with an estimated tally of at least 10,000 women and 200,000 infants under one year old.
  7. Four out of five malaria deaths occur in one of 15 countries: Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Mozambique, Ghana, Angola, Uganda, Mali, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon, Niger, Guinea and Chad. More than one in three malaria deaths occur in two countries: Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. UNICEF has a country office in all of these countries. 
  8. Sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net (ITN) is the most common and most effective way to prevent malaria infection. In 2016, an estimated 54% of people at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa slept under an ITN compared to 30% in 2010. However, the rate of increase in ITN coverage has slowed since 2014. Less than half of households in sub-Saharan Africa have enough nets for all occupants.
  9. In the last ten years, UNICEF has procured and helped distribute nearly 268 million insecticide-treated bed nets in more than 30 countries worldwide.
  10. Countries that have achieved at least 3 consecutive years with no local cases of malaria are eligible to apply for certification of malaria elimination. In the last decade, six countries have been certified as having eliminated malaria: Morocco (2010), Turkmenistan (2010), Armenia (2011), Maldives (2015), Sri Lanka (2016) and Kyrgyzstan (2016). In the previous two decades, there was one United Arab Emirates (2007).    Source: Malaria Factsheets (2018).


Malaria can be prevented by avoiding mosquito bites or by taking medicines. Talk to a doctor about taking medicines such as chemoprophylaxis before travelling to areas where malaria is common.

Lower the risk of getting malaria by avoiding mosquito bites:  

  • Use mosquito nets when sleeping in places where malaria is present
  • Use mosquito repellents (containing DEET, IR3535 or Icaridin) after dusk
  • Use coils and vaporizers.
  • Wear protective clothing.
  • Use window screens.


Early diagnosis of malaria reduces disease, prevents deaths and contributes to reducing transmission. WHO recommends that all suspected cases of malaria be confirmed using parasite-based diagnostic testing (through either microscopy or a rapid diagnostic test).

Malaria is a serious infection and always requires treatment with medicine.

Multiple medicines are used to prevent and treat malaria. Doctors will choose one or more based on: 

  • the type of malaria 
  • whether a malaria parasite is resistant to a medicine
  • the weight or age of the person infected with malaria 
  • whether the person is pregnant.

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