GENEVA — On December 9, The World Health Organization declared that international efforts have cut malaria-related deaths in half. WHO commends this tremendous achievement and the increased action many countries have taken since 2001.
Malaria is a parasitic disease spread by the bites of infected mosquitoes. Those living in impoverished countries are most susceptible to contracting the disease, WHO officials state. Malaria is entirely preventable and treatable, though a lack of resources caused an estimated 198 million cases globally in 2013. However, accessibility to preventable care and life-saving medications is progressing in many countries each year.
Between 2000 and 2013, elimination efforts have reduced malaria cases by 30 percent worldwide and by 34 percent in Africa. During this time, disease mortality rates decreased by approximately 47 percent across the globe and 54 percent in Africa.
WHO reports that as many as 4.3 million deaths have been avoided, with 3.9 million being children under five and living in sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, as of 2004, only three percent of people living in malaria-prone regions had access to mosquito nets; this number has now reached 50 percent.
Indoor residual spraying techniques have played a large role in preventing additional malaria cases. In Africa, an estimated 55 million residents in high-risk areas receive household spraying on a regular basis. Over 427 million long-lasting insecticidal nets, or LLINs, have also been delivered to these areas since 2012.
Furthermore, there have been significant developments in access to diagnostic testing over the last decade. Availability of malaria treatments, including quality-assured artemisinin-based combination therapies, or ACTs, has become much more common, resulting in fewer malaria-related deaths
With all of these recent developments, WHO states that the malaria-targeted Millennium Development Goal—MDG 6, target C—which aims to stop the spread of the disease by 2015 and to begin reversing malaria cases, has already been reached.
WHO Director General, Dr. Margaret Chan, said, “These tremendous achievements are the result of improved tools, increased political commitment, the burgeoning of regional initiatives, and a major increase in international and domestic financing.”
Despite these developments, WHO reports that funding for malaria control remains insufficient. Total international and domestic funding reached $2.7 billion in 2013. Though aid has expanded since 2005, this number is still drastically below the estimated $5.1 billion needed to meet global targets for malaria reduction.
Since 90 percent of malaria deaths take place in Africa, some officials are concerned that the recent Ebola epidemic may cause setbacks to malaria efforts. Though great achievements have been made in recent years, officials urge that the fight against malaria must continue if we want to see more progress in the future.
“We must not be complacent,” said Dr. Chan. “Most malaria-endemic countries are still far from achieving universal coverage with life-saving malaria interventions.”
– Meagan Douches