WHO says eradicating malaria ‘can be done’

Henrietta Strickland
August 25, 2019

Global malaria infection and death rates have remained virtually unchanged since 2015.

"However, malaria cases are increasing in the highest burden countries, and we are working with partners to do more to reignite and accelerate progress to drive malaria cases back down and stay on track to end this deadly yet preventable and treatable disease once and for all".

There are several medications available to treat and control malaria and effective insecticides to fight mosquitoes, its main transmitter, but in the opinion of experts this is not enough to completely erradicate the disease.

According to WHO, less than one percent of global funding for investment in health research and development is devoted to the enhancement of means to fight malaria. "Business, as usual, is not only slowing progress, but it is sending us backwards", said Marcel Tanner, Chair of the SAGme.

But the WHO's malaria eradication report, a summary of which was published on Friday, said these tools would not be sufficient to wipe out malaria altogether.

The report found that the world would need to invest $34 billion in order to hit the target of reducing the burden of malaria by 90 per cent between 2016 and 2030 - although economies would gain $283 in gross domestic product in return. Thus, more than 53 million Nigerians had malaria in 2017, the largest in the world.

A major challenge in many countries is access to health services.

While a few countries like the Maldives and Sri Lanka have eliminated the disease recently, India and other high burden countries, especially in Africa, are away from this target. Half the people at risk of malaria in Africa sleep under an insecticide-treated net and just 3% are protected by indoor spraying with insecticides.

WHO's Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication (SAGme) based on a three-year study of trends and future projections said that even with the most optimistic projections, we will still have 11 million cases of malaria in Africa in 2050. "Freeing the world of malaria would be one of the greatest achievements in public health", WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

"Falling short of eradication led to a sense of defeat, the neglect of malaria control efforts and abandonment of research into new tools and approaches", the review stated.

The report showed that by scaling up current malaria interventions, an additional two billion malaria cases and four million deaths would be prevented by 2030.

The cost of this scale-up, according to World Health Organization estimation, is 34 billion USA dollars, while the economic gain would be around 283 billion dollars in total gross domestic product. A partially effective vaccine - the world's first against malaria - has been developed by the British drugmaker GSK and is being deployed in Ghana and Malawi, with plans for rollout in Kenya.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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