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Mosquitoes Pose Threat to More Than Half the World’s Population

Many species of mosquito feed on the blood of various hosts and ingest pathogens, meaning their bites can transfer diseases directly

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Mosquitoes, Threat, World
Below are 10 ways that the mosquito — Spanish for "little fly" — has affected humans and methods to mitigate the risks. VOA

A warmer climate, travel and trade are helping to spread mosquito-borne diseases as a deadly beast smaller than a paper clip poses a threat to more than half the world’s population.

World Mosquito Day on Tuesday commemorated the discovery in 1897 by British doctor Ronald Ross that female mosquitoes transmit malaria between humans, but the World Health Organization (WHO) warns progress against malaria is stalling.

Below are 10 ways that the mosquito — Spanish for “little fly” — has affected humans and methods to mitigate the risks:

1. Many species of mosquito feed on the blood of various hosts and ingest pathogens, meaning their bites can transfer diseases directly into the blood of hosts. This has made mosquitoes one of the deadliest animals in the world.

Mosquitoes, Threat, World
A warmer climate, travel and trade are helping to spread mosquito-borne diseases as a deadly beast smaller than a paper clip poses a threat to more than half the world’s population. Pixabay

2. Mosquito bites result in the deaths of more than one million people every year with the majority due to malaria, and the WHO warns nearly half of the world population is at risk. In 2017, malaria caused over 435,000 deaths.

3. About 90% of all malaria deaths occur in Africa. Currently in Burundi, more than half the population is infected with malaria.

4. Malaria cases continue to spread in countries including Uganda, where the Ministry of Health this week announced a 40% increase in instances of the disease this year to 1.4 million.

5. Dengue fever is a viral disease widely spread in tropical regions that 2.5 billion people are at risk of contracting. Up to 100 million new infections are estimated to occur annually in more than 100 countries.

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6. Most mosquitoes only fly an average of 400 meters. It is often humans, not mosquitoes, that carry a disease across communities and countries. The mosquito blamed for transmitting the Zika virus breeds in car tires, tin cans, dog bowls and cemetery flower vases.

7. After Zika spread to the United States in 2016, experts warned that more life-threatening diseases could be carried from the tropics.

8. Up to one billion additional people, including those in the United States and Europe, could be exposed to mosquito-carried viruses by 2080 if the climate continues to warm, according to U.S. research released earlier this year.

Mosquitoes, Threat, World
World Mosquito Day on Tuesday commemorated the discovery in 1897 by British doctor Ronald Ross that female mosquitoes transmit malaria between humans. Pixabay

9. If you have ever wondered why mosquitoes are more attracted to certain people, research published in the PNAS scientific journal demonstrated that some people are able to emit masking odors that can naturally repel mosquitoes.

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10. Hitting mosquitoes where it hurts — their eggs — is one way of controlling pesticide-resistant insects. North and Central American scientists in 2016 came up with a trap to trap eggs using two pieces of an old tire. (VOA)

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Sub-Saharan Africa Lags Behind All Other Regions in World in Reducing Child and Maternal Mortality

Estimates by the World Health Organization and U.N. children’s fund UNICEF reveal conflict, fragile health systems, and poverty

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Africa, World, Child
FILE - A woman sits beside her sick child in the pediatric ward at the general hospital in Man, western Ivory Coast, July 4, 2013. VOA

New U.N. data shows sub-Saharan Africa lags behind all other regions in the world in reducing child and maternal mortality. Estimates by the World Health Organization and U.N. children’s fund UNICEF reveal conflict, fragile health systems, and poverty are some of the factors accounting for millions of preventable child and maternal deaths.

Presenting their report Thursday in Geneva, he two U.N. agencies said since 2000, child deaths have dropped by nearly one-half and that maternal deaths are down by more than one-third, mostly due to better access to affordable, quality health services.

The new estimates, however, show 6.2 million children under the age of 15 died last year and nearly 300,000 women died of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth in 2017. The agencies report a pregnant woman or newborn dies every 11 seconds somewhere in the world, mostly of preventable causes.

Peter Salama, WHO’s executive director of universal health coverage, says women and children in sub-Saharan Africa are at higher risk of death than in all other regions.

Africa, World, Child
New U.N. data shows sub-Saharan Africa lags behind all other regions in the world in reducing child and maternal mortality. Pixabay

“In 2017, for the first time, half of all child deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. Because of increasing fertility rates, we project that number to reach more than 60 percent of all global child deaths. For maternal deaths today, two-thirds occurred in sub-Saharan Africa,” he said.

Salama says the lifetime risk of a woman dying of pregnancy-related causes is about one in 37 in Africa, compared to one in 7,800 in Australia, his home country. He says the risk of delivering a baby in countries with a stable government is far than less in countries affected by conflict.

He says countries with modest means can make progress in reducing child and maternal mortality. He cites Belarus, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Malawi and Zambia.

“It is clear one reason is they have made a heavy investment in sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health. They are choosing the right programs and they are investing accordingly in them. But that is not the whole story.  They are investing in primary health care and in universal health coverage. In short, they are investing in more comprehensive and integrated systems,” Salama said.

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The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals aim to reduce maternal mortality to less than 70 per 100,000 live births and under-five child mortality to at least 25 per 1000 live births by 2030.

WHO and UNICEF say the world must act now and invest the money needed to reduce these deaths. They warn that otherwise, 62 million children under the age of 5 will die between now and 2030, and more than a million maternal lives will be lost. (VOA)