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Report Praises Drop in Malaria Deaths

FILE - Women hold mosquito nets after receiving them at a distribution point in Sesheke, Zambia.
FILE - Women hold mosquito nets after receiving them at a distribution point in Sesheke, Zambia.

A newly-released report said the numbers of global malaria deaths and cases have plunged to their lowest point since 2000, when the Millennium Development Goals were established.

Malaria deaths have dropped by 60 percent and cases by 37 percent, thereby halting and reversing the devastation caused by this ancient killer, the report said.

The report, released Thursday in London by the World Health Organization and U.N. Children’s Fund, called the sharp drop in malaria deaths and cases an unprecedented success, citing new tools developed over the past 15 years. These include easy-to-use diagnostics, Artemisinin-based combination therapies and long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

New technology

The new technologies have saved 6.2 million lives since 2000, the majority under age 5, according to UNICEF senior health specialist Mark Young. He said a significant increase in the use of insecticide-treated bed nets had played a major role.

“But it is also important to point out that malaria still remains a disease of poverty and that millions of children in sub-Saharan Africa, mostly from the poorest households in remote rural areas, still do not have access to insecticide-treated nets or effective treatment," he said. "And reaching them will be critical if we are to achieve equitable and sustainable development.”

The report noted an estimated 214 million new cases of malaria and about 438,000 deaths from this preventable and treatable disease this year. It said about 3.2 billion people — almost half of the world’s population — remained at risk.

Sub-Saharan Africa

The report called sub-Saharan Africa the most seriously affected region, accounting for 89 percent of all malaria cases and more than 90 percent of deaths, most among children under 5.

WHO and UNICEF said progress toward eliminating malaria was being made in an increasing number of countries, noting that the fastest decreases were in the Caucasus and in central and eastern Asia.

The U.N. agencies aim to reduce global malaria deaths and cases by 90 percent by 2030 but said nearly $9 billion would be needed to achieve this Sustainable Development Goal over the next 15 years.