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WHO, partners launch a new country-led response to put stalled malaria control efforts back on track

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The World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners have on Monday launched new an initiative to scale up prevention and treatment, and increased investment, to protect vulnerable people from the deadly disease.
The new, country-led response is aimed at revamping stalled war against malaria which has had devastating effects in the efforts to reduce the disease that still kills thousands of under five years and pregnant women.

“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,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

For the second consecutive year, the World malaria report produced by WHO reveals a plateauing in numbers of people affected by malaria: in 2017, there were an estimated 219 million cases of malaria, compared to 217 million the year before. But in the years prior, the number of people contracting malaria globally had been steadily falling, from 239 million in 2010 to 214 million in 2015.

“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 the local level.”

In 2017, approximately 70% of all malaria cases (151 million) and deaths (274 000) were concentrated in 11 countries: 10 in Africa and United Republic of Tanzania) and India.

There were 3.5 million more malaria cases reported in these 10 African countries in 2017 compared to the previous year, while India, however, showed progress in reducing its disease burden.

Despite marginal increases in recent years in the distribution and use of insecticide-treated bed nets in sub-Saharan Africa – the primary tool for preventing malaria – the report highlights major coverage gaps. In 2017, an estimated half of at-risk people in Africa did not sleep under a treated net.

Also, fewer homes are being protected by indoor residual spraying than before, and access to preventive therapies that protect pregnant women and children from malaria remains too low.

In line with WHO’s strategic vision to scale up activities to protect people’s health, the new country-driven “High burden to high impact” response plan has been launched to support nations with most malaria cases and deaths. The response follows a call made by Dr Tedros at the World Health Assembly in May 2018 for an aggressive new approach to jump-start progress against malaria.

According to the report, the number of countries nearing elimination continues to grow (46 in 2017 compared to 37 in 2010).
As reductions in malaria cases and deaths slow, funding for the global response has also shown a levelling off, with US$ 3.1 billion made available for control and elimination programmes in 2017 including US$ 900 million (28%) from governments of malaria-endemic countries. The United States of America remains the largest single international donor, contributing US$ 1.2 billion (39%) in 2017.
To meet the 2030 targets of the global malaria strategy, malaria investments should reach at least US$6.6 billion annually by 2020 – more than double the amount available today.

 

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