Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 03:58 | SYDNEY
Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 03:58 | SYDNEY

A world without malaria?

23 April 2010 14:32

Malaria used to be a neglected disease.

But over the last decade the world has come to recognise the immense human, social and economic burden of malaria. Initiatives like Roll Back Malaria, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the adoption of the health-related Millennium Development goals all contribute to reducing the mortality and morbidity caused by malaria.

Nonetheless, on World Malaria Day, this coming Sunday, we still find almost half of the world's population at risk of malaria with close to a million deaths annually. There were some 247 million cases of malaria in 2006, with 90 percent of the world's malaria deaths occur in Africa.

Earlier this week, UNICEF and Roll Back Malaria released a report outlining the progress and impact made in Africa's fight against malaria. At least 10 of the most endemic countries in Africa showed declines in new malaria cases as well as an impressive decline in child mortality of 50 to 80 percent.

This dramatic progress in Africa results from massive up-scaling of coverage due to major increases in funding and awareness of the burden of malaria. Sizeable contributions from the Global Fund play a crucial role in malaria control, which so far has allowed for the distribution of over 104 million insecticide-treated nets for malaria prevention.

However, the UNICEF report does not shy away from noting that 'external assistance in malaria funding still falls far short of the estimated $6 billion needed in 2010 alone for global implementation of malaria control interventions.'

With malaria control and elimination depending to a great extent on Global Fund financing, this gives yet another reason why Global Fund donors should commit later this year to the US$20 billion target in the upcoming replenishment round.

My colleague Bill Bowtell recently pointed out that if the Global Fund is 'replenished at the higher range of the scenarios — that is, up to US$20 billion — there is the real possibility that by 2015 we might virtually eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and end deaths from malaria.'

The Global Fund also considers the current momentum in fighting malaria, combined with a continuing up-scaling of malaria programs, as a real opportunity:

If the momentum of the last decade is maintained and countries continue to scale up programs at the current rate, malaria could be eliminated as a public health problem in most endemic countries and indeed there would be hope for a world without malaria deaths by 2015.

It appears we can indeed hope for a world without malaria, starting with the elimination of deaths from the disease in most countries by 2015, and perhaps the total eradication of malaria not long thereafter.

But the eradication of the disease ultimately and crucially depends on the resources the world allocates. To sustainably fund the fight against malaria our challenge lies now, as Bill put it, in 'convincing global public opinion, and donor governments, of the merits of the US$20 billion target' for the replenishment of the Global Fund.

Photo by Flickr user Vestergaard Frandsen, used under a Creative Commons license.