ROME — Pope Francis is stressing that efforts to combat malaria must continue even as the world fights COVID-19.

Concern has been rising that while the world is focused on the pandemic, people suffering from other illnesses could receive less attention. Francis added his voice to that chorus of concern, saying Sunday that “while we are fighting the coronavirus pandemic, we must also continue our efforts to prevent and treat malaria, which threatens billions of people in many countries.”

The U.N. World Health Organization has said severe disruptions to anti-malaria campaigns, using insecticide-treated netting against mosquitoes, coupled with difficulties in accessing medicine could lead to a doubling in the number of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa this year compared to 2018.

As he has been doing during the Vatican’s and Italy’s COVID-19 lockdowns, Francis delivered his traditional Sunday noon blessing from a window overlooking empty St. Peter’s Square. He delivered his televised remarks from inside the Apostolic Palace.