Malaria: big progress, major challenges

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In its just-released World Malaria Report 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals there has been an overall 66% reduction in malaria mortality since 2000, with the rate in African children under 5 having fallen by 71%. As a result of concerted global efforts 6.2 million lives have been saved. However, whilst the report is highly encouraging, already senior voices in the malaria community are voicing their concern about whether the momentum can be sustained.

The report’s launch comes at a turning point – the end of the Millennium Development Goals and the beginning of the Sustainable Development Goals. ‘Against this backdrop, our report tracks a dramatic decline in the global malaria burden over 15 years,’ stated Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization. ‘Target 6C of 2000 Millennium Development Goals called for halting and beginning to reverse the global incidence of malaria by 2015. The report shows — unquestionably — that this target has been achieved.’

This impressive progress is thanks to global efforts to improve coverage of key interventions including bed nets, insecticides, diagnostics and medicines. For example, the proportion of children now receiving an artemisinin combination therapy – WHO recommended first-line treatment for malaria – has increased 16-fold since 2005 from 1% to 16%. Nevertheless, much work remains to be done. In this example alone, the rise to 16% falls substantially short of the Global Malaria Action Plan target of universal access for malaria case management.

The Malaria Consortium, a key player In the fight against malaria, recently held a consultation in Brussells with the EU, and warned that without sustained investment the target of 2030 for elimination, would not be met. ‘The shortfall in malaria investment is daunting,’ said Dr. Sylvia Meek, the Technical Director. ‘It is important we find the balance between funding countries with the highest burden, and those aspiring for malaria elimination. If we are to meet the 2030 targets for malaria control and elimination, we need to scale up cost effective interventions such as seasonal malaria chemoprevention and support innovative approaches such as mobile technology to reach the people at the end of the line,’ she added.

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