After a year in the making, the WHO World Malaria Report 2012 is out today. It was formally launched in Monrovia, Liberia by Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in the company of Dr Luis Gomes Sambo, Regional Director for the WHO Regional Office for Africa, several ministers, and many high-level dignitaries. We are incredibly grateful for Her Excellency’s support at this critical time in the fight against malaria.
President Johnson Sirleaf is the current Chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance and co-Chair of the UN High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post-2015 Global Development Agenda. She is also the leader of a country that is making steady progress in its day-to-day struggle against this disease. Her leadership has helped to raise global awareness about the importance of malaria as both a health and a development issue.
The World Malaria Report 2012 brings together data from 104 malaria-endemic countries and reveals both success stories and a set of difficult challenges. This year, we have taken a closer look at the issue of data quality and surveillance, and have done a comprehensive assessment of progress towards the 2015 global targets.
The top-line messages that are emerging from the report are mixed. Let me start with the good news:
- Our findings confirm that an estimated 1.1 million malaria deaths were averted during the past decade as malaria interventions were scaled up around the world. We estimate that 58% of these lives were saved in the ten countries with the highest malaria burden.
- 50 countries around the world are on track to reduce their malaria case incidence rates by 75% by 2015 – in line with World Health Assembly and Roll Back Malaria targets. This is a significant achievement for these countries and for the development partners supporting them.
- We are also seeing major year-on-year increases in the delivery of artemisinin-based combination therapy and rapid diagnostic tests.
However, the report also documents some concerning trends.
- International funding for malaria appears to have reached a plateau well below the level required to reach the internationally-agreed global malaria targets.
- An estimated US$ 5.1 billion is needed every year between 2011 and 2020 to achieve universal access to malaria interventions; less than half of this total is currently available.
- The number of bed nets delivered to endemic countries in sub-Saharan Africa dropped significantly in the past two years, from 145 million in 2010 to a projected 66 million in 2012. The proportion of the population protected by indoor residual spraying remained constant. Unless there is a substantial scale-up of vector control in 2013, millions more people could once again be exposed to the disease. We would need to prepare for major malaria resurgences.
- The 50 countries that are on track to meet 2015 targets only represent 3%, or 7 million, of the malaria cases that were estimated to have occurred in 2000. In the rest of the world, substantial progress has been made over the years but it is difficult to measure this precisely due to a lack of reliable data from the countries.
- Drug and insecticide resistance remain as major concerns, and if left unchecked, could threaten the remarkable progress made during the past 10 years.
The last decade has shown just how powerful our existing tools are at saving lives; our challenge now is to sustain and extend those gains to ensure that everyone at risk of malaria has access to prevention, diagnostic testing, and treatment for malaria.