The World Health Organization warns there could be a resurgence of malaria in countries where much progress had been made over the past decade. The WHO has released its annual World Malaria Report, which warns of funding and resource shortfalls.
The WHO’s Richard Cidulskis says the past decade had seen a concerted effort by endemic countries, donors and others to “strengthen malaria control around the world.” He said many lives were saved.
“Tremendous progress in that we estimate there have been 1.1 million deaths averted from malaria. Those 1.1 million deaths, the majority of them, have been averted in the 10 highest burden countries in Africa. The other progress we’ve seen is 50 countries out of 99 with ongoing transmission are on track to meet international targets of reducing malaria incidence by 75 percent by 2015,” he said.
owever, those 50 countries represent only three percent - or seven million people – of the malaria cases that were estimated to have occurred in 2000. The WHO said the 2000 estimate is the benchmark against which progress is measured.
There had also been a large increase in the availability of rapid diagnostic tests and in artemisinin combination therapy.
Cidulskis is the WHO’s coordinator for strategy, economics and elimination in the Global Malaria Program.
He said, “One of the concerns is the amount of money available for malaria control seems to be plateauing. In previous years, we’ve seen it rise to a large extent year on year. In 2011, however, the amount of money for malaria control was actually less than in 2010 and amounted to $2.3 billion. That’s a lot of money, but it’s well short of the $5.1 billion that are needed to ensure everybody has access to malaria interventions.”
There are other concerns. The number of long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets - delivered to endemic countries - has dropped from a high of 145 million in 2010 to 66 million in 2012. What’s more, the World Malaria Report said the “expansion of indoor residual spraying programs has leveled off, remaining at 11 percent of the population at risk.”
“If we don’t scale-up control operations in 2013, it is likely that we’ll have [a] major resurgence of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Cidulskis.
The WHO report said the malaria burden is concentrated in 14 endemic countries that account for 80 percent of malaria deaths. Most are in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the hardest hit in that region, while India is the most affected in South East Asia.
It’s estimated there are 219-million malaria cases worldwide. About 660,000 people die every year from the disease.
“Each one of those cases and each one of those deaths is preventable,” he said.
Cidulskis said the leveling-off of funding is due in part to the global recession. But he also said most of the countries where malaria is endemic are poor. And while they’ve been increasing spending on control and treatment programs, their resources are limited.
The WHO report called for strengthening malaria surveillance programs and ensuring affected countries have all the medicine and bed nets they need.