WHO report shows significant progress in global malaria fight, highlights need for continued funding

Since 2008, global malaria control efforts have "helped reduce infections across Africa and [eliminate] the disease in Morocco and Turkmenistan, but a slowdown in funding risks undoing those achievements," according to the WHO's annual malaria report, which was released on Tuesday, Reuters reports (Nebehay, 12/14).

Expanded access to insecticide-treated nets (ITN) has helped protect more than 578 million people from contracting malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report, a WHO press release states. "Indoor residual spraying has also protected 75 million people, or 10% of the population at risk in 2009," the release adds (12/14). The number of malaria cases worldwide "decreased slightly from 233 million at the start of the millennium to 225 million in 2009," the Associated Press reports. The report shows that global malaria deaths "fell to 781,000 last year, compared with 985,000 in 2000," according to the news service (12/14).   

For Africa, the report found that more than 42 percent of households own an ITN and 11 countries on the continent "showed a greater than 50 percent reduction in confirmed malaria cases or malaria admissions and deaths over the past decade," Agence France-Presse writes. "Only three nations in world - Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe and Zambia - saw an increase [in malaria cases] last year," AFP reports (12/14). "The reasons for these resurgences are not known with certainty," according to the press release, which adds that rises in malaria in these countries "illustrate the fragility of malaria control and the need to maintain intervention coverage even if numbers of cases have been reduced substantially" (12/14).

According to Reuters, "India, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia are among the Asian countries with the highest numbers of cases and deaths" (12/14). The report also showed that in 2009, the WHO "European Region reported no cases of Plasmodium falciparum malaria for the first time," IRIN writes (12/15).

"The results set out in this report are the best seen in decades. After so many years of deterioration and stagnation in the malaria situation, countries and their development partners are now on the offensive," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, AFP writes. Ray Chambers, the U.N. special envoy for malaria, said, "The phenomenal expansion in access to malaria control interventions is translating directly into lives saved" (12/14). He added, "By maintaining these essential gains, we can end malaria deaths by 2015 ... It is indeed within our reach," Reuters notes. Robert Newman, director of the WHO's global malaria program, said, "It is a long way to go, so serious work has to be done. But this disease is entirely preventable and treatable" (12/14).

According to the report, "new commitments for malaria control appear to have levelled off in 2010 at $1.8 billion, still far short of the estimated $6 billion required," the U.N. News Centre writes. "The report stresses that much work remains to attain international targets for malaria control," the news service notes, adding that the report said financial disbursements for malaria "reached their highest ever in 2009 at $1.5 billion" (12/14). The AP reports that "Chan called for weaker, single-drug therapies that are still sold in many developing countries to be banned, as they could encourage widespread resistance to" the most effective treatment, artemisinin combination therapy. "We are down to the last effective medicine to treat malaria," Chan said. "If we lose Artemisinin, we are back to square one" (12/14).

Using data from the report, the Economist's "Daily Chart" blog includes an image comparing the number of children in sub-Saharan African countries who slept under ITNs in 2000 and 2009 (12/14).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


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