WHO mentioned that it is possible to eliminate malaria. However, people should direct more efforts towards getting funds, tools and political will for controlling the disease. WHO experts said that even though malaria eradication is possible, when and what it will cost to achieve this is still uncertain. This was during the launch of the findings of an analysis of the global fight against malaria, which lasted three years.
According to the Director of WHO’s Global malaria Program, Pedro Alonso, it is not wise to set impractical goals with unknown costs. During his telephone briefing, he said this can result in “frustration and backlashes”. Therefore, the world should prioritize the development of new medicines, vaccines and insecticides to control malaria cases and deaths.
“With the tools that we have today, it is most unlikely that eradication could be achieved. We need to focus on getting back on track.”
The past decade has witnessed a notable drop in the number of malaria cases and deaths, and the most recent findings show progress. In 2017, malaria-infected 219 million people and killed 435,000, most of them being babies and children from the poorest parts of Africa. These numbers marked a little change from the previous year, 2016. However, there was previously a steady drop in global malaria case numbers from 239 million in 2010 to 214 million in 2015. Deaths declined from 607,000 in 2010 to around 500,000 in 2013.
Abdourahamane Diallo from the campaign group Roll Back Malaria spoke about the progress in curbing malaria in a statement about the report by WHO. He mentioned that the number of countries with malaria is lesser than that of those without it. He also said that more countries than ever now have fewer than 10,000 cases of malaria, and this will make it easier to eliminate the mosquito-borne disease.
“Today, there are more countries without malaria than with (it), and more countries than ever have fewer than 10,000 malaria cases, putting elimination within reach.”
According to Diallo, it is a matter of concern that the number of malaria cases in some of the most affected countries is increasing. He said there is a need to “reignite and accelerate the progress”.
Efforts to control malaria cases have put in place several drugs to treat the disease and insecticide-treated mosquito nets. There is also a malaria vaccine that is partially effective. The British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) developed the vaccine, which is the first-ever in the world. African countries Ghana and Malawi are the beneficiaries of the vaccines. There are also plans to make the vaccine available in Kenya.
According to WHO’s report, only these tools are not adequate to get rid of malaria. It said that only less than 1% of global funding for health research and development resources goes to developing tools to control malaria.
“Our priority now should be to establish the foundation for a successful future eradication effort while guarding against the risk of failure that would lead to the waste of huge sums of money, frustrate all those involved… and cause a lack of confidence in the global health community’s ability to ever rid the world of this disease.”