The World Health Organization (WHO) says accelerated research and development (R&D) in new tools for malaria prevention and treatment is key if the world is to eradicate malaria in the foreseeable future: today less than 1 percent of funding for health R&D investment goes to developing tools to tackle malaria. WHO also flags the urgent need for progress to advance universal health coverage and improve access to services, and better surveillance to guide a more targeted malaria response.
The group has published the executive summary of its report ahead of a WHO-hosted forum on “Rising to the Challenge of Malaria Eradication” to be held in Geneva on September 9, 2019.
The health benefits would be greatest among some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Children under five account for 61 percent of all malaria deaths. More than 90 percent of the world’s 400,000 annual malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
The group’s analyses showed that scaling up current malaria interventions would prevent an additional 2 billion malaria cases and 4 million deaths by 2030 – provided those interventions reach 90 percent of the population in the 29 countries that account for 95 percent of the global burden.
The cost of this scale-up is estimated to be US$ 34 billion. The economic gain would be around US$ 283 billion in total gross domestic product (GDP) - a benefit to cost ratio in excess of 8:1.
Global malaria infection and death rates have remained virtually unchanged since 2015. WHO’s World Malaria Report in 2018 revealed that the world is currently off track to achieve the 2030 goals set out in the WHO Global Technical Strategy for malaria 2016-2030 — i.e. a 90 percent reduction in the malaria case incidence and mortality rate.
In many countries, access to health services remains a major challenge. Only one in five pregnant women living in areas of moderate to high malaria transmission in Africa is able to obtain the drugs she needs to protect herself from malaria. Half the people at risk of malaria in Africa sleep under an insecticide-treated net and just 3 percent are protected by indoor spraying with insecticides.
This highlights the need to advance universal health coverage and strengthen health services and delivery systems, so everyone can access malaria prevention, diagnostics and treatment, when and where they need them, without suffering financial hardship.