Efforts to combat malaria over the last decade are paying off with mortality rates dropping by almost half, according to the World Malaria Report 2014, due to be released by the World Health Organization (WHO) later today.
Dr Pedro Alonso, the newly appointed Director of the World Health Organization’s Global Malaria Programme observes that Global malaria mortality rates have decreased by 47 percent and cases since declined by 30 percent over the last four years.
Across Sub-Saharan Africa, the report shows that the number of people infected with Malaria, which is caused by mosquito bites fell from 173 million in 2000 to 128 million in 2013, a reduction of 26%. This has occurred despite a 43% increase in the African population living in malaria transmission areas.
WHO attributes this success to increased access to insecticide-treated bed nets, and points out that a record 214 million bed nets are scheduled for delivery to endemic countries in Africa by year-end.
These include Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cameroon, Chad, Gabon, Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and Tanzania among others.
“We can win the fight against malaria,” says Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, WHO. “We have the right tools and our defenses are working. But we still need to get those tools to a lot more people if we are to make these gains sustainable.”
But significant challenges remain: “The next few years are going to be critical to show that we can maintain momentum and build on the gains,” notes Dr Pedro L Alonso,
He believes however that with sufficient funding and commitment, huge strides forward can still be made.
“There are biological and technical challenges, but we are working with partners to be proactive in developing the right responses to these. There is a strong pipeline of innovative new products that will soon transform malaria control and elimination. We can go a lot further,” he says.
While funding to combat malaria has increased threefold since 2005, it is still only around half of the US$ 5.1 billion that is needed if global targets are to be achieved.
“Against a backdrop of continued insufficient funding the fight against malaria needs a renewed focus to ensure maximum value for money,” says Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership.
“We must work together to strengthen country ownership, empower communities, increase efficiencies, and engage multiple sectors outside health. We need to explore ways to do things better at all levels.”
Ray Chambers, who has served as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria since 2007, highlights the remarkable progress made in recent years.
“While staying focused on the work ahead, we should note that the number of children dying from malaria today is markedly less than 8 years ago. The world can expect even greater reductions in malaria cases and mortality by the end of 2015, but any death from malaria remains simply unacceptable,” he says.
Based on an assessment of trends in reported malaria cases, a total of 64 countries are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal target of reversing the incidence of malaria. Of these, 55 are on track to meet Roll Back Malaria and World Health Assembly targets of reducing malaria case incidence rates by 75% by 2015.
The World Malaria Report is published every year in December, providing the global health community with a comprehensive overview of progress in the fight against malaria.
The report highlights at least eleven countries that have succeeded in maintaining zero cases of malaria and another four that reported fewer than 10 local cases annually. Argentina, Armenia, Egypt, Georgia, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Oman, Paraguay, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan all succeeded in maintaining zero cases.