14 June 2019

Africa: Still Wrong - Malaria Doesn't Kill a Child Every 30 Seconds in Africa

An old claim about the number of child deaths in Africa from malaria has surfaced again.

"According to Unicef, malaria kills one child every 30 seconds in Africa," reported the Africa section of the China Global Television Network's English website.

The article, which was reporting on the rollout of a malaria vaccine pilot programme in Ghana, said that this meant "about 3,000" children died from malaria every day.

Does the latest data support this worrying claim?

Outdated data

The statistic cited in the news report can be found on the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) website. But the webpage is dated 25 April 2003.

In order for the claim to be correct, just over one million children would have to die from malaria in Africa. The most recent data does not show this.

In 2017, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that 435,000 people died from malaria globally. This means a person died every 1 minute and 12 seconds.

The majority of these deaths were in the Africa region, where an estimated 403,000 people died. This means a person died every 1 minute and 18 seconds - or 1,104 people every day. (Note: The WHO's Africa region includes 47 countries on the continent.)

Children under five

The WHO provides a breakdown of malaria deaths for children under the age of five.

"Most of the deaths under five occur in the WHO Africa region," Collins Boakye-Agyemang, WHO communications officer, told Africa Check.

In 2017, an estimated 257,076 children under the age of five died from the disease in the Africa region.

That means that 704 children under five died every day - or one child every two minutes. (Note: We have asked the WHO to provide a breakdown of deaths of children under the age of 19. We will update this report when we get it.)

The claim that "malaria kills one child every 30 seconds in Africa" is therefore not supported by the best available data. - Naphtali Khumalo

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