(WHO Press Release - April 25, 2000)

Africa's GDP would be up to $100 billion greater this year
if malaria had been eliminated years ago, according to
new research by Harvard, London School and WHO

Abuja, Nigeria ­ The control of malaria in Africa would significantly increase the continent's economic productivity and the income of African families, according to the findings of a new report released today by the World Health Organization, Harvard University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

"The evidence strongly suggests that malaria obstructs overall economic development in Africa," said Dr Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Center 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 $100 billion added to sub-Saharan Africa's current GDP of $300 billion. This extra $100 billion 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 slowdown 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 $300 billion, the short-term benefits of malaria control can reasonably be estimated at between $3 billion and $12 billion 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."

The report also finds that: Malaria-free countries average three times higher GDP per person than malarious countries, even after controlling 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. This analysis, carried out by Dr Ann Mills, LSHTM, demonstrates that malaria control tools and intervention strategies provide good value for money.

"Malaria is taking costly bites out of Africa," said Dr David Nabarro, executive director at WHO. "It is feasting on the health and development of African children and it is draining the life out of African economies."

The report recommends that $1 billion annually be devoted to malaria prevention and control and that most of this expenditure be focused in Africa. This is many times greater than the amount which is currently being spent. It argues that spending this amount is economically justifiable as the short-term benefits of malaria control can reasonably be estimated at between $3 billion and $12 billion per year.

"The benefits of committing substantial new economic resources to malaria will greatly exceed the costs," said Sachs.

The findings of the report will be presented today at the first ever summit to focus on malaria. The heads of state of twenty African nations and the executive directors of the African Development Bank, World Bank, UNDP, UNICEF, UNESCO and WHO are expected to be present to hear the findings. The Summit is being hosted in Abuja, Nigeria by the country's president, His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo, and is co-sponsored by WHO.

Malaria accounts for nearly one million deaths each year in Africa; an estimated 700,000 of these deaths are among children. Research has found that the wider availability and use of insecticide treated bednets would result in 50 percent less malaria illness among children. Yet presently, only 2% of African children are protected at night with a treated bednet.

"Roll Back Malaria aims to help African families create a mosquito free zone in the home through the use of nets, drapes, or bednets treated with insecticide," said Dr Awash Teklehaimanot, acting project manager for Roll Back Malaria. "Our goal is to ensure that every person at risk of malaria in Africa is protected with an insecticide-treated bednet within the next five years."

In addition to ensuring wider availability of treated nets, Roll Back Malaria is also working to provide greater access to rapid diagnosis and quick treatment with the appropriate therapies -- ideally in the home; preventing malaria illness during pregnancy; and detecting and responding to epidemics quickly.

"Halving the burden of malaria is realistic and achievable," said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO. "We have the tools. We have the economic justification. We now need leaders from both the public and private sectors stepping forward to make this happen."

For further information please contact Gregory Hartl, WHO Press Spokesperson, WHO, Geneva, telephone: (+41 22) 791 4458, mobile + 41 79 293 6715, fax: (+41 22) 791 4858. E-mail: In the U.S., Jim Palmer at +1 202 262-9823. In the U.K., Janice Muir or Amanda Barnes at +44 171 407 3313. In Abuja, Nigeria, Andy Seale at +234 9 523 0225. In Lagos, Chuddy Odueni at +234 1 497 0128. In Johannesburg, Kim Hudson at +27 11 480 8555. All WHO press releases can be obtained on internet at