Authors: Martha Powell, Future Science Group
Progress in reducing malaria cases and deaths has stalled in recent years, with financing and investment also levelling off, according to the new WHO World Malaria Report 2018. To get this disease back on track the WHO and partners have announced the launch of a new country-led response to scale up prevention and treatment, and to increase investments, to try and protect more people from this disease.
The progress plateau
First reported in the 2017 World Malaria Report, 2018 represents a second consecutive year where the numbers of individuals affected by malaria have not seen a significant decrease. In the latest report, it is stated that in 2017 there were an estimated 219 million cases of malaria, compared with 217 million in 2016. This is a change from prior years, which saw a fall from 239 million in 2010 to 214 million in 2015.
Pockets of progress
Despite the overarching message, the report highlights some victories; for example, the number of countries nearing elimination continues to grow – at 46 in 2017 compared with 37 in 2010. In addition, both China and El Salvador, countries where malaria had been endemic, report no local transmission in 2017 – demonstrating that intensive country-led efforts can be successful.
In other country successes, India, Rwanda, Pakistan and Ethiopia reported significant reductions in cases of malaria. Finally, in 2018 Paraguay was certified malaria-free – the first country in the Americas to receive this status in 45 years.
The hardest hit
The 2018 World Malaria Report states that in 2017 approximately 70% of malaria cases and deaths were concentrated in 11 countries, 10 of which are in Africa (Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Mozambique, Mali, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania) with the other country being India.
Despite marginal increases in the distribution and use of insecticide-treated nets, major coverage gaps are highlighted, with an estimated half of at-risk individuals in Africa not sleeping under a treated net.
High-impact response needed
The WHO has today launched a new, country-driven ‘high burden to high impact’ response plan, which aims to support nations with the most malaria cases and deaths. Currently, targets set in the WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria for 2020 aim to reduce case incidence and deaths by at least 40%, and these are not on track to be met.
As progress has plateaued, funding for the global response has also been levelling off, with US$3.1 billion made available for control and elimination programs in 2017. To meet the 2030 targets investments should reach at least US$6.6 billion annually by 2020 – more than double what is currently available.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, concluded: “Nobody should die from malaria. But the world faces a new reality: as progress stagnates, we are at risk of squandering years of toil, investment and success in reducing the number of people suffering from the disease,”
“We recognise we have to do something different – now. So today we are launching a country-focused and -led plan to take comprehensive action against malaria by making our work more effective where it counts most – at local level.”
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Source: WHO. World Malaria Report 2018. www.who.int/malaria/publications/world-malaria-report-2018/en/