By Sydney Brown, ONE Policy Intern
In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) optimistically reported that we were on track to eradicate malaria by 2030, but new evidence released this year suggests this progress is in jeopardy.
Without a doubt, there has been huge success in the global fight against malaria. Global malaria deaths plummeted by a quarter in the last six years alone.
However, progress has stalled.
The WHO reports in its Global Malaria Report 2017 that 5 million more malaria cases occurred in 2016 than in 2015. That’s 5 million more lives missing work or school just because of 1 mosquito bite.
In the words of the Director-General of the WHO, Dr. Teidros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “We are now at a turning point. Without urgent action, we risk going backwards, and missing the global malaria targets for 2020 and beyond.”
Acting now is extremely important because last year alone, nearly half a million lives were lost to malaria; 91% of these deaths occurred in Africa and most deaths were children under 5.
Here are four things world leaders can do:
1. Use the proven tools to prevent, detect and treat malaria
Prevent: Insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) are the most common and effective method to prevent malaria. These nets are hung over beds to kill and repel mosquitos and physically shield sleeping people from infection. Last year, 505 million bed nets were distributed in sub-Saharan Africa, resulting in more than half of at-risk people in the region sleeping safely under bed nets every night.
Detect: In just 15 minutes, rapid diagnostic tests (RDTS) can detect if an individual has been infected with malaria. Last year, 269 million tests went to Africa resulting in identification of 87% of suspected cases in 2016, up from the 36% in 2010. Malaria detection is important, because without detection, treatment is unattainable.
Treat: Prompt treatment within the first two hours of fever symptoms is the most effective way to block a mild case of malaria from developing into a deadly one, and treatment is becoming more available. Treatment by artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) have increased by almost 100 million courses from 2015 to 2016, with 99% distributed to Africa.
2. Increase funding to meet global targets
In 2016, $2.7 billion was spent globally in the fight against malaria – the majority of which comes from The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) and the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). Despite massive funding efforts, this is far below the $6.5 billion annual investment required to eradicate malaria by 2030. To put this in perspective, in the last three years, the average level of funding available per person in high burden countries remained below $2, while treatment alone costs $2.
3. Support the development of new tools
Scaling up investments for malaria research and development is crucial for malaria eradication. Currently, more than 20 malaria vaccines are being evaluated and tested in clinical trials; these trials are impossible without funding.
4. Address the treatment gap among children
The majority of malaria infections occur in children. However, in 2016 only one-third of African children with a fever were taken to a healthcare provider. In order to address this treatment gap, the WHO recommends an approach that combines treatment of the most common life-threatening conditions for children. Evaluation of this approach has shown remarkable impacts, including a 21% increase in seeking care for children with a fever in Uganda.
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