Report shows progress in fight against malaria

The World Health Organization (WHO) 2013 malaria report says global efforts to control and eliminate malaria have saved an estimated 3.3 million lives since 2000.

It said within the period, malaria mortality rates were reduced by 45 per cent globally and by 49 per cent in Africa.

The report, which was made available to the Ghana News Agency on Thursday, said expansion of prevention and control measures had been mirrored by a consistent decline in malaria deaths and illness despite an increase in the global population at risk of malaria between 2000 and 2012.

It said increased political commitment and expanded funding had helped to reduce malaria by 29 per cent globally and by 31 per cent in Africa.

The report said the large majority of the 3.3 million lives saved between 2000 and 2012 were in the 10 countries with the highest malaria burden and among children aged less than five years – the group most affected by the disease.

The report said over the same period, malaria mortality rates in children in Africa were reduced by an estimated 54 per cent, adding that more needed to be done.

“This remarkable progress is no cause for complacency: absolute numbers of malaria cases and deaths are not going down as fast as they could,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “The fact that so many people are infected and dying from mosquito bites is one of the greatest tragedies of the 21st century.”

It said in 2012, there were an estimated 207 million cases of malaria, which caused approximately 627 000 malaria deaths.

“An estimated 3.4 billion people continue to be at risk of malaria, mostly in Africa and south-east Asia. Around 80 per cent of malaria cases occur in Africa. Malaria prevention suffered a setback after its strong build-up between 2005 and 2010,” it said.

The new WHO report noted a slowdown in the expansion of interventions to control mosquitoes for the second successive year, particularly in providing access to insecticide-treated bed nets.

It said this had been primarily due to lack of funds to procure bed nets in countries that had ongoing malaria transmission.

It said in sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of the population with access to an insecticide-treated bed net remained well under 50 per cent in 2013.

Only 70 million new bed nets were delivered to malaria-endemic countries in 2012, below the 150 million minimum needed every year to ensure everyone at risk is protected. However, in 2013, about 136 million nets were delivered, and the pipeline for 2014 looks even stronger, suggesting that there is real chance for a turnaround.”

It said there was no such setback for malaria diagnostic testing, which has continued to expand in recent years.

The report said between 2010 and 2012, the proportion of people with suspected malaria who received a diagnostic test in the public sector increased from 44 per cent to 64 per cent globally.

Access to WHO-recommended artemisinin-based combination therapies had also increased with the number of treatment courses delivered to countries rising from 76 million in 2006 to 331 million in 2012.

The report said despite these achievements, millions of people continue to lack access to diagnosis and quality-assured treatment, particularly in countries with weak health systems.”

It said the roll-out of preventive therapies – recommended for infants, children under five and pregnant women – has also been slow in recent years.

The report said international funding for malaria control increased from less than US$ 100 million in 2000 to almost US$ 2 billion in 2012.

It said artemisinin resistance had been detected in four countries in south-east Asia, and insecticide resistance had been found in at least 64 countries and that globally, about 9 per cent of the estimated malaria cases are due to Plasmodium vivax, although the proportion outside the African continent is 50 per cent. GNA

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