“In 2015, there were 212 million new cases of malaria and 429,000 deaths. One child dies from malaria every two minutes.”
World Malaria Day is an occasion to highlight the need for continued investment and sustained political commitment for malaria prevention and control. This year’s global theme for World Malaria Day is End Malaria for Good. In the lead-up to 25 April, WHO is shining a spotlight on prevention, a critical strategy for reducing the toll of a disease that continues to kill more than 400 000 people annually. Since 2000, malaria prevention has played an important role in reducing cases and deaths, primarily through the scale up of insecticide-treated nets and indoor spraying with insecticides. Across sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease is heavily concentrated, a greater share of the population is sleeping under insecticide-treated nets. In 2015, an estimated 53% of the population at risk slept under a treated net compared to 30% in 2010. In 20 African countries, preventive treatment for pregnant woman increased five-fold between 2010 and 2015. In 2015, there were 212 million new cases of malaria and 429,000 deaths. One child dies from malaria every two minutes. Prevention scale-up is yielding results: According to the latest estimates from WHO, many countries with ongoing malaria transmission have reduced their disease burden significantly. On a global scale, new malaria cases fell by 21% between 2010 and 2015. Malaria death rates fell by 29% in the same 5-year period.
An unfinished agenda
However, the pace of progress must be greatly accelerated. WHO’s Global Technical Strategy for Malaria calls for a 40% reduction in malaria cases and deaths by 2020, compared to 2015 baseline levels. Less than half (40) of the world’s 91 countries with malaria transmission are on track to achieve these milestones. Progress has been particularly slow in low-income countries with a high malaria burden. To speed progress towards these global targets, WHO is calling on malaria-affected countries and their development partners to boost investments in malaria prevention. In parallel, the Organization is calling for greater funding for the development, evaluation and deployment of new tools. “Robust investments in malaria prevention and in new tools will propel countries along the path to elimination while also contributing to other Sustainable Development Goals, such as improving maternal and child health. With the required resources, and all partners united, we can transform our common vision – End Malaria for Good – into a shared reality,” said WHO in a statement this week According to the World Health Organisation, about 63 percent of people in the Southern Africa region live in areas affected by the disease. WHO notes that malaria mortality rates have decrease in recent years, but despite this decrease, malaria is still the number one cause of hospital admissions and deaths in Africa. Last year WHO announced that it will introduce the world’s first malaria vaccine will be rolled out in pilot projects in sub-Saharan Africa with funding already secured for the initial phase of the programme and vaccinations that will begin in 2018.
The number of malaria deaths globally fell from an estimated 839 000 in 2000 (range: 653 000–1.1 million), to 438 000 in 2015 (range: 236 000–635 000), a decline of 48%. Most deaths in 2015 were in the WHO African Region (90%), followed by the WHO South-East Asia Region (7%) and the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region (2%). The malaria mortality rate, which takes into account population growth, is estimated to have decreased by 60% globally between 2000 and 2015. Thus, substantial progress has been made towards the World Health Assembly target of reducing the malaria burden by 75% by 2015, and the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership target of reducing deaths to near zero.