Gains made in fight against malaria
Africa is finally making headway in its decades-long fight against malaria
The World Health Organization ( WHO) announced in December 2015 that the global incidence of malaria had finally been slowed, thanks in large part to a massive rollout of mosquito nets, antimalaria medicines and indoor residual spraying of insecticides. The news was particularly welcome in Africa, where the disease has been the deadliest.
Malaria is caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female anopheles mosquitoes.
Between 2000 and 2015, malaria mortality rates in Africa fell by 66% among all age groups. Among children under five, who are the most vulnerable to the disease, fatalities fell by 71%, from 694,000 to 292,000 deaths, during the same period.
Progress in the use of mosquito nets has been impressive. WHO data shows that in 2000, just 2% of the 667 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa at that time slept under mosquito nets. By 2015, more than half of Africa's 1 billion people were using bed nets.
In addition, Margaret Chan, the directorgeneral of WHO, wrote in the foreword of the World Malaria Report 2015 that “a rapid expansion in diagnostic testing and the availability of antimalarial medicines has allowed many more people to benefit from timely and appropriate treatment.”
A coordinated approach
Efforts to prevent malaria have also resulted in significant health care cost savings. SubSaharan countries saved up to $900 million on the costs of malaria case management between 2001 and 2014, notes the world health body. Mosquito nets represented the biggest cost savings, followed by artemisinin-based combination drug therapies (ACTs) and indoor residual spraying.
An ACT consists of an artemisininbased compound combined with a drug from a different class. Medical experts recommend the use of a combination of drugs because using one drug can speed up the development of drug resistance in parasites.
Much progress in the malaria fight has been the result of global partnerships and funding schemes established in 2000. A notable partnership is the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) initiative, which was set up by WHO, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank. Under the RBM, over 500 development groups, private- and public-sector organizations and research and academic institutions have pooled their resources and expertise to fight the disease.
High-profile partnerships are effective, as they put pressure on governments to fight diseases, stated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an American public health institute, in a 2011 report.
The report commended leaders in malaria-endemic countries for their commitment to treating malaria control as a national priority, as they agreed to do under the 2001 Abuja Declaration and Frameworks for Action on Roll Back Malaria and the UN Millennium Development Goals.
Funding for malaria programmes has reached unprecedented levels. Money has come in through schemes such as the US President's Malaria Initiative and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Global financing for malaria control increased from $960 million in 2005 to $2.5 billion in 2014, according to WHO's World Malaria Report 2015.
The road to elimination
Yet despite recent progress the fight is far from over. Africa, the epicentre of the disease, is still vulnerable. Last year 88% of the 214 million cases and 90% of the 438,000 malaria deaths reported worldwide occurred in the WHO African region. The region includes Algeria but excludes Sudan and Somalia.
A nurse takes blood sample from a baby to test for malaria in Manhia, Mozambique.