One of the mosquito-borne illness (we have been hearing about these a lot lately in the news, heard of Zika virus anyone?) that the global community has been trying to eradicate for a long time now is malaria. Malaria is caused by Plasmodium, a parasitic protozoan, that is transmitted from the bites of infected female anopheles mosquitoes.
Early this month, the WHO released a video describing the progress that has been made toward reducing/eradicating malaria globally and the challenges that exist in the fight against malaria. The disease is widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America. 214 million cases were reported in 2015. A multi-pronged approach of coordinated responses that include timely diagnosis through Rapid Diagnostic Testing (RDT), treatment using artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT), distribution of long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets (LLIN) and targeted insecticide spraying, the global mortality rates have decreased by 60% between 2000-2015. The malaria incidence rates also fell by 37% between 2000 and 2015.
Childhood mortality due to malaria fell by 65% worldwide and by 71% in Africa. This is particularly impressive and an important win since children under five years of age are highly susceptible to malaria infection and death.
In 2015, the global burden of malaria is highly concentrated in 17 countries, mostly in Africa and progress in reducing malaria incidence in these high burden countries has lagged behind other countries.
These data thus far are dramatic and encouraging but given the many challenges including poorly functioning health systems, climate change and global economy, a coordinated, multi-pronged global response with continued investment is needed. The Global Technical Strategy for Malaria was approved by the WHO in 2015. This strategy follows the timeline of the sustainable development goals and aims to reduce both malaria incidence and mortality by 90%. The framework provided in the technical strategy consists of 3 pillars, that could be used as a foundation for anti-malaria strategies and programs. The three pillars are a) ensure universal access to malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment; b) accelerate efforts towards elimination and attainment of malaria-free status; and c) transform malaria surveillance into a core intervention. The framework aims to provide clear defined paths to achieve the lofty goals of malaria reduction and elimination.
Now is the time for consistent financial support from national governments and other donors to keep the momentum going in our fight against malaria. Together we can end malaria!