The World Health Organization (WHO) says that while malaria eradication is still a global vision, with the current vaccination and healthcare programs, we are far from a malaria-free world.
WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group says that the world is not even on track to meet the 2020 milestones to eliminate malaria in 10 countries that would lead us to lower incidence cases and mortality by 90 percent by 2030 (from the 2015 level). “Despite huge progress in reducing malaria cases and deaths between 2000 and 2015, the last two years have witnessed the stalling of global progress.”
WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication (SAGme) based on a three-year study of trends and future projections said that even with the most optimistic projections, we will still have 11 million cases of malaria in Africa in 2050. “In these circumstances, it is impossible to either set a target date for malaria eradication, formulate a reliable operational plan for malaria eradication or to give it a price tag.”
While stating that malaria eradication was still a global vision, WHO said the disease has received insufficient attention in the research and development space, and insufficient investment to roll out available tools, particularly in countries with weak health systems.
Every year malaria kills more than 400,000 around the world. Children under five years of age account for 61 percent of all malaria deaths while over 90 percent of malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. India accounts for four percent of global malaria deaths.
There are about 219 million cases of the disease globally.
According to the WHO Malaria Report 2018, 11 countries accounted for approximately 70 percent of estimated malaria cases and deaths globally in 2017. That included 10 in sub-Saharan Africa and India. Nigeria (25 percent), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (11 percent), Mozambique (5 percent), India (4 percent) and Uganda (4 percent).
Among these countries, only India reported progress in reducing its malaria cases in 2017 compared to 2016. While African countries reported a rise in malaria cases, India reported 3 million fewer cases in the same period, a 24 percent decrease compared with 2016.
While a few countries like the Maldives and Sri Lanka have eliminated the disease recently, India and other high burden countries, especially in Africa, are away from this target.
The Indian government is working on a National Strategic Plan (NSP) for malaria elimination for years 2017-2022, targeting eradication by 2030.
WHO says it is required to get the world back on track to meet the Global Technical Strategy 2016-2030 targets with a renewed drive towards R&D, including on malaria vaccines and stronger political will to ensure everyone universal health access.
Globally just less than one percent of funding for health R&D investments are targeted towards developing tools to tackle Malaria. Need is to invest in robust and agile surveillance systems to detect changes in malaria transmission so that can better target the response.
WHO hopes to prevent two billion additional malaria cases and four million deaths by 2030 if the current global malaria intervention efforts are scaled up.
Efforts to eradicate malaria need to reach 90 percent of the population in the most affected 29 countries. These countries accounted for 95 percent of the global burden in 2016.Estimates suggest that within these 29 countries, the cost of scaling up is projected to be $34 billion, but the economic gain is estimated at $283 billion in total GDP during the period of 2016 and 2030.