The World Malaria Report 2014 shares the good news, but warns the fight is far from over
The World Malaria Report 2014, released today by the World Health Organization, was launched in the UK Parliament in the presence of the Duke of York. In this annual report the progress being made to control, prevent and eliminate malaria is outlined, and gaps that remain identified. So how is the fight against malaria progressing?
Good progress being made in certain areas
The general outlook is positive, with more people being reached with preventive interventions and treatments, malaria incidence and mortality rates falling and more countries than ever achieving significant reductions in disease burden. The key positive points from the report are:
However, gaps in preventative coverage and access to diagnostics and treatment remain, and least progress has been made in countries with the highest disease burden, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Some of the other key gaps are:
Unless there is a dramatic increase in domestic and international funding, many countries, including those with the highest disease burden, will not meet these targets.
Antimalarial Drug Resistance
One of the biggest challenges we face in our fight against malaria is the growing resistance of the malaria parasite to our most effective drugs. Artemisinin resistance has been detected in five countries of the Greater Mekong subregion, in Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. In many areas along the Cambodia–Thailand border, P. falciparum has become resistant to most available antimalarial medicines.
The issue of drug-resistant malaria poses the gravest threat to international malaria elimination efforts and demands a strong, coordinated international response. If the spread of resistance follows the trajectory of parasite strains that developed resistance to previously effective anti-malarials, the impact could be devastating. In particular the effect in Africa, where the disease burden is highest, could be disastrous.
Despite the challenges, the outlook is positive
New technical and advocacy strategies for malaria elimination are being finalised by the WHO, which will provide a framework for international action for the next 15 years. At the East Asia Summit in November a historic commitment was made by the 18 member states to eliminate malaria in the Asia-Pacific region by 2030.
Within this context of strong international commitments the actions of donor and endemic countries governments alike will be important. The UK must continue its role as one of the leading countries funding malaria control, and we encourage the Government to develop a new framework for doing so when the current Malaria Framework for Results expires in 2015. At the same time, endemic countries must be encouraged to increase domestic funding for health and disease control, and supported in developing their health systems to be resilient enough to tackle diseases such as malaria.