Malaria in Africa Tom Stoddart Archive/Getty Images

Learning from Malaria

It is one of the best untold stories in the annals of development: a disease that was once endemic worldwide, is being beaten back in its remaining redoubts. And it is a story that holds important lessons for how the world should confront other development challenges.

BERLIN – It is one of the best untold stories in the annals of development: great strides have been made against malaria, a disease that was once endemic across the world and, more recently, has remained the scourge of developing countries. Over the last 15 years, more than six million lives have been saved. Even better, the lessons of that success can – and therefore should – be applied to other great development challenges.

Malaria is caused by a mosquito-transmitted parasite. Even in a mild case, the result can be fever, chills, flu-like symptoms, and anemia – especially dangerous for pregnant women and young children. It can lead to lifelong intellectual disabilities, and is estimated to cost billions of dollars in lost productivity every year.

Once, malaria was pervasive throughout Europe, from warm Italy to cold Archangel, and much of the United States. The invention of the insecticide DDT and cheap drugs helped rich countries practically eradicate it after World War II, making it a disease largely confined to poor countries.

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