WHO estimates of malaria mortality an understatement?

Related articles

The efficacy of India’s anti-malaria efforts are being called into question following the publication of a recent study showing that malaria kills 13 times more Indians than previously estimated by the WHO. Published in The Lancet last month, the study, co-funded by the Center for Global Health Research and U.S. National Institutes of Health, analyzed data acquired through verbal autopsy — in which relatives of dead patients are interviewed for relevant medical information — of 122,000 deaths in more than 6,500 areas of India from 2001 to 2003. Researchers found that 200,000 people aged one month to 70 years old die from malaria each year, versus the 15,000 annual deaths estimated by WHO. Lead study author Prabhat Jha, a professor with the Center for Global Health Research, believes that WHO data underestimate malaria mortality because these only included patients who tested positive for the disease in the hospital setting. "Most of those who reach a hospital with malaria do get treated," he said. "Those who die are the ones who don't reach a hospital."

However, Dr. Gagan Singh Sonal, a director with the India government’s anti-malaria campaign, deems the new estimates excessive and intended to gain media attention.

ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross disagrees and wonders if WHO has also underreported malaria mortality in other countries. “The data were gathered by government officials, but now this spokesman from the Indian government is trying to deny it? Well, I don’t know who in the Indian government trying to fight malaria wants media attention, but frankly, all of the media attention we can pay to the needless toll of malaria in the third world is welcome. If the toll is not one million but ten million, this certainly should be brought to everyone’s attention. The anti-chemical activists running the UN's Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, a small coterie stubbornly clinging to the baseless belief in 'Silent Spring,' should take careful note of the real horror that they’re visiting on people in the third world, especially children, by continuing to oppose the use of DDT to prevent malaria.”