GENEVA, Switzerland – The World Malaria Report 2013 is proof that this often fatal blood disease, transmitted to humans through mosquitoes that have been infected by parasites, can be controlled.
Malaria exists in approximately 100 countries, currently threatening half of the global population. Its victims are mostly children under the age of five that are living in extreme poverty.
The World Health Organization (WHO) released their latest report in December 11 issue, which estimated that approximately 207 million cases of malaria developed in 2012, and of those cases, 627 thousand resulted in deaths.
Despite these high numbers, progress has been made. Of that progress, the WHO recognizes that strategies of malaria surveillance and control have also proven successful, and is seeking to increase the need to fund these efforts.
Between 2010 and 2012 alone, malaria surveillance systems increased detection by 4%. However, as many as 41 countries are in need of up-to-date registration systems to benefit from malaria surveillance methods.
The report suggests that 52 countries (that accounts for 4% of malaria cases) are projected to reach the World Health Assembly and Roll Back Malaria, which is expected to target a goal for 75% case reductions by 2015. While this is good news, 18 countries (that accounts for 80% of malaria cases) must aim efforts to push for significant progress if international targets are to be met.
The World Malaria Report 2013 delivers good news as well as motivation to continue the fight against malaria. Here are four things learned from the World Malaria Report (2013) encouraging that observation:
1. Malaria Mortality Rates Have Decreased
Between 2000 and 2012, malaria death rates decreased by 45% globally. In Africa, where 91% of malaria cases occur, an overall decrease of 49% was recorded.
2. Most of the Recovered Cases Were Children
3.3 million lives were saved through malaria control and prevention, 90% of which were children in sub-Saharan Africa. This number means that a much lower number of 483 thousand children under the age of five died from malaria. Or, in other words, one child per minute.
3. Increased Access to Various Forms of Technology is the Key to Success
On average, 42% of Sub-Saharan African households now have access to an insecticide-treated bed net, and 51% actually own one.
In countries most affected by malaria, sales of rapid diagnostic tests increased by 117 million between 2010 and 2012. In Africa, suspected malaria cases that were administered rapid diagnostic tests in the public sector, for example, increased by as much as 24%.
According to Dr. Robert Newman, director of the WHO’s Global Malaria Program, these statistics, along with increased indoor spraying of insecticide, improved access to artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) have been key interventions in the reduction of malaria deaths. Newman states that while positive outcomes have been seen, the rate of intervention distribution falls short of global coverage goals.
4. The Greatest Challenge to Malaria Control is More than Biological – it is Financial
Parasite resistance to artemisinin, (the main component of ACTs) has been detected in Southeast Asia as well as mosquito resistance to some insecticides in Africa – an issue WHO addressed in 2012 with the Global plan for insecticide resistance management in malaria vectors. Dr. Newman views these biological setbacks are less damaging to the fight against malaria than its more lethal enemy: funding.
$5.1 billion per year is needed for universal coverage of the proven effective interventions. In 2012, the total global funding for malaria control and prevention was less than $2.5 billion.
– Zoë Dean
Sources: WHO, All Africa