On this year’s World Malaria Day, April 25, the World Health Organization joins partner organizations in promoting the theme, “Ready to beat malaria”. This theme underscores the collective energy and commitment of the global malaria community in uniting around the common goal of a world free of malaria.
For decades, the global response to malaria was considered one of the world’s most significant public health achievements. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported time and again on the massive roll-out of effective disease-cutting tools, and on impressive reductions in cases and deaths.
Unfortunately, the most recent World Malaria Report 2017 reveals that progress in global malaria control and elimination has stalled.
Last December 2016, the positive statistics seemed to flop. The data showed that less than half of countries with ongoing transmission were on track to reach critical targets for reductions in the death and disease caused by malaria. There were an estimated 216 million cases of malaria in 91 countries, up from 211 million cases in 2015. The estimated global tally of malaria deaths reached 445,000 in 2016 compared to 446,000 the previous year.
The current pace is definitely not enough to achieve the 2020 milestones of the WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016–2030 – specifically, targets calling for a 40% reduction in malaria case incidence and death rates.
Some of the challenges blocking countries’ abilities to stay on track and advance towards elimination include lack of sustainable and predictable international and domestic funding, risks posed by conflict in malaria endemic zones, and worsening climate patterns.
In 34 out of 41 high-burden countries, which rely mainly on external funding for malaria programmes, the average level of funding available per person at risk in the past 3 years (2014–2016) reduced when compared with 2011–2013. Exceptions were Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Pakistan, and Senegal, which recorded increases.
Among the 41 high-burden countries, overall, funding per person at risk of malaria remains below US$ 2. In many areas, access to the public health system remains low. National-level surveys in the African Region show that only about one third (34%) of children with a fever are taken to a medical provider in the public health sector.
Role of research
Considerable amount of awareness campaigns and advocacies exist for progress on malaria elimination, but there is also widespread recognition that such an ambitious effort will require a substantial research base. Therefore, it will be essential to engage the biomedical research community at multiple levels to address this major global health challenge. Malaria control, elimination, and eradication will require a multifaceted approach and extensive cooperation among the many organizations committed to this effort.
As we work toward the goal of malaria eradication, it will be important to develop new and existing techniques based on proven efficient practices. Freeing the masses of this global epidemic is a goal worth pursuing, and more than ever, we are strongly positioned to make progress toward that goal.
World Malaria Report 2017. (2017, November 28). Retrieved April 20, 2018, from https://reliefweb.int/report/world/world-malaria-report-2017
Malaria Control, Elimination, and Eradication: The Role of the Evolving Biomedical Research Agenda, 200(11). (2009). Retrieved April 23, 2018, from https://academic.oup.com/jid/article/200/11/1639/831923