Health Desk—Nov 30, 2017: After extraordinary global success in controlling malaria, progress has stalled, according to the World Malaria Report 2017. There were an estimated 5 million more malaria cases in 2016 than 2015. Malaria deaths were at around 445000, a similar number to the previous year.
The WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria calls for reductions of at least 40% in malaria case incidence and mortality rates by the year 2020. According to WHO’s latest malaria report, the world is not on track to reach these critical milestones.
“In recent years, we have made major gains in the fight against malaria,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “We are now at a turning point. Without urgent action, we risk going backward, and missing the global malaria targets for 2020 and beyond.”
The report shows that, in 2016, 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 African Region continues to bear an estimated 90% of all malaria cases and deaths worldwide. Fifteen countries – all but one in sub-Saharan Africa – carry 80% of the global malaria burden.
A major problem in fulfilling these targets is insufficient funding at both domestic and international levels which is creating major gaps in coverage of insecticide-treated nets, medicines, and other life-saving tools. An estimated US$ 2.7 billion was invested in malaria control and elimination efforts globally in 2016. That is well below the US $6.5 billion annual investment required by 2020 to meet the 2030 targets of the WHO global malaria strategy.
In most malaria-affected countries, sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net (ITN) is the most common and most effective way to prevent infection. In 2016, an estimated 54% of people at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa slept under an ITN compared to 30% in 2010. However, the rate of increase in ITN coverage has slowed since 2014, the report finds.
Dr. Pedro Alonso, Director of the Global Malaria Program seeing this report as a wake-up call. He said, “Meeting the global malaria targets will only be possible through greater investment and expanded coverage of core tools that prevent, diagnose and treat malaria. Robust financing for the research and development of new tools is equally critical.”