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We have malaria vaccines. Next: Distributing them.

In 2000, nearly 900,000 people died of malaria, the vast majority of whom lived in poorer regions of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa. It’s one of the biggest public health problems in the world, threatening nearly half the world’s population.

Over the last 20 years, insecticide-treated bed nets, antimalarial medications, and the spraying of homes with insecticides significantly reduced global malaria cases and deaths. And for a time, these interventions helped lower the transmission of the disease in Africa, preventing an estimated 663 million malaria cases in the region between 2000 and 2015.

Still today, half a million people die in Africa from malaria every year, and since the Covid-19 pandemic began, that number has been on the rise.

“Over the past two decades, the collective efforts of the global malaria community have dramatically reduced the global burden of malaria, but progress has stalled in recent years,” wrote Philip Welkhoff, the director for malaria at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in an email. The foundation invested hundreds of millions of dollars in fighting the disease over the last 20 years. “Challenges like drug and insecticide resistance, stagnant funding, and extreme weather events threaten to set progress back even further.”

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