Major progress in fight against malaria
Geneva/ Washington, December 12, 2013
Global efforts to eliminate malaria have saved an estimated 3.3 million lives since 2000, reducing malaria mortality rates by 45 per cent globally, according to the World malaria report 2013 published by the World Health Organization (WHO).
An expansion of prevention and control measures has been mirrored by a consistent decline in malaria deaths and illness, despite an increase in the global population at risk of malaria between 2000 and 2012. Increased political commitment and expanded funding have helped to reduce incidence of malaria by 29 per cent globally, and by 31 per cent in Africa.
The large majority of the 3.3 million lives saved between 2000 and 2012 were in the ten countries with the highest malaria burden, and among children aged less than five years – the group most affected by the disease. Over the same period, malaria mortality rates in children in Africa were reduced by an estimated 54 per cent.
“This remarkable progress is no cause for complacency: absolute numbers of malaria cases and deaths are not going down as fast as they could,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO director-general. “The fact that so many people are infected and dying from mosquito bites is one of the greatest tragedies of the 21st century.”
In 2012, there were an estimated 207 million cases of malaria (uncertainty interval: 135 – 287 million), which caused approximately 627 000 malaria deaths (uncertainty interval 473 000 – 789 000). An estimated 3.4 billion people continue to be at risk of malaria, mostly in Africa and south-east Asia. Around 80 per cent of malaria cases occur in Africa.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of the population with access to an insecticide-treated bed net remained well under 50 per cent in 2013. Only 70 million new bed nets were delivered to malaria-endemic countries in 2012, below the 150 million minimum needed every year to ensure everyone at risk is protected.
However, in 2013, about 136 million nets were delivered, and the pipeline for 2014 looks even stronger (approximately 200 million), suggesting that there is real chance for a turnaround, the report said.
There was no such setback for malaria diagnostic testing, which has continued to expand in recent years. Between 2010 and 2012, the proportion of people with suspected malaria who received a diagnostic test in the public sector increased from 44 per cent to 64 per cent globally.
Access to WHO-recommended artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) has also increased, with the number of treatment courses delivered to countries rising from 76 million in 2006 to 331 million in 2012.
International funding for malaria control increased from less than $100 million in 2000 to almost $2 billion in 2012. Domestic funding stood at around $0.5 billion in the same year, bringing the total international and domestic funding committed to malaria control to $2.5 billion in 2012 – less than half the $5.1 billion needed each year to achieve universal access to interventions.
Without adequate and predictable funding, the progress against malaria is also threatened by emerging parasite resistance to artemisinin, the core component of ACTs, and mosquito resistance to insecticides. Artemisinin resistance has been detected in four countries in south-east Asia, and insecticide resistance has been found in at least 64 countries.
“The remarkable gains against malaria are still fragile,” said Dr Robert Newman, director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme. “In the next 10-15 years, the world will need innovative tools and technologies, as well as new strategic approaches to sustain and accelerate progress.”
WHO is currently developing a global technical strategy for malaria control and elimination for the 2016-2025 period, as well as a global plan to control and eliminate Plasmodium vivax malaria.
Prevalent primarily in Asia and South America, P. vivax malaria is less likely than P. falciparum to result in severe malaria or death, but it generally responds more slowly to control efforts. Globally, about 9 per cent of the estimated malaria cases are due to P. vivax, although the proportion outside the African continent is 50 per cent. – TradeArabia News Service