A joint report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF says 15 countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, accounted for 80 per cent of malaria cases and 78 per cent of deaths globally in 2015.
It said children under five accounted for more than two-thirds of all deaths associated with malaria. Between 2000 and 2015, the under-five malaria death rate fell by 65 per cent or an estimated 5.9 million child lives saved.
According to the report which was launched on Thursday in London, malaria death rates had plunged by 60 per cent since 2000, translating into 6.2 million lives saved, the vast majority of them being children, according to the joint WHO-UNICEF report released on Thursday.
The report, dubbed: “Achieving the Malaria Millennium Development Goal Target,” was made available to the Ghana News Agency by Christian Lindmeier, WHO Communications Officer.
It shows that the malaria MDG target to “have halted and begun to reverse the incidence” of malaria by 2015, has been met “convincingly,” with new malaria cases dropping by 37 per cent in 15 years.
“Global malaria control is one of the great public health success stories of the past 15 years,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO.
“It’s a sign that our strategies are on target, and that we can beat this ancient killer, which still claims hundreds of thousands of lives, mostly children, each year,” the report said.
It said an increasing number of countries are on the verge of eliminating malaria and that in 2014, 13 countries reported zero cases of the disease and six countries reported fewer than 10 cases.
It said the fastest decreases were seen in the Caucasus and Central Asia, which reported zero cases in 2014, and in Eastern Asia.
The report said despite tremendous progress, malaria remained an acute public health problem in many regions.
The report indicated that in 2015 alone, there were an estimated 214 million new cases of malaria, and approximately 438,000 people died of this preventable and treatable disease.
It said about 3.2 billion people – almost half of the world’s population – are at risk of malaria; while some countries continue to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden.
The report quoted UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, as saying; “Malaria kills mostly young children, especially those living in the poorest and most remote places. So the best way to celebrate global progress in the fight against it is to recommit ourselves to reaching and treating them.”
It said in the United States, the President’s Malaria Initiative had mobilised hundreds of millions of dollars for treatment and prevention, while the Government of the United Kingdom tripled its funding for malaria control between 2008 and 2015.
Many governments have also channeled their investments through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria or directly to countries.
“A healthy, prosperous world is in all our interests and the prevention of deadly diseases is one of the smartest investments we can make,” said Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development of the United Kingdom.
“That is why, working with malaria-affected countries and partners like the Global Fund, Britain will continue to provide bednets to millions, tackle resistance to life saving medicines and insecticides, and boost health systems across Africa to help bring an end to this terrible disease.”
The report said the surge in funding has led to an unprecedented expansion in the delivery of core interventions across sub-Saharan Africa adding that since 2000, approximately one billion insecticide-treated bednets have been distributed in Africa.
It said the increased use of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) had made it easier to distinguish between malarial and non-malarial fevers, enabling timely and appropriate treatment.
It said Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are highly effective against Plasmodium falciparum, the most prevalent and lethal malaria parasite affecting humans, but drug resistance is a looming threat which must be prevented. GNA