The worldwide fight against malaria is one that’s being won, but is far from over, according to the latest report from the World Health Organization.
After examining the stats from 2000 to 2012 on infections and deaths from malaria in the 102 nations where the disease is transmitted, the World Malaria Report 2013 finds that in the first 12 years of this century all the effort to control, treat, and eliminate the mosquito-borne illness have saved roughly 3.3 million lives. The majority of these lives saved have been in the 10 nations with the highest malaria burden, among children under five years of age, who typically are the hardest hit.
Impressively, the mortality rate from the disease has been reduce by 45 percent globally. In Africa malaria mortality has declined 49 percent overall, and by 54 percent in children.
Incidence of malaria is also on the decline, down 29 percent globally, by 31 percent in Africa. The WHO cites increased political commitment to combat malaria, as well as increased funding, as being being these successes.
As of 2012, each year there are an estimated 207 million malaria cases worldwide, resulting in roughly 627,000 deaths. This is out of approximately 3.4 billion people being at risk of malaria, either by living or traveling to places where the disease is endemic.
Eight out 10 malaria cases occur in Africa. All of the top 25 places in the world with the highest rates of infection are in sub-Saharan Africa; all of the top 50 places are in Africa or Southeast Asia, barring Haiti, New Guineas, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. The worst malaria-affected nation is Sierra Leone, where an estimated 132.5 people out of 100,000 die from the disease.
The WHO notes there is considerable room for improvement in malaria treatment and prevention, though. Since 2010, expansion of efforts to control the disease have slowed due to lack of funding to buy the insecticide-treated bed nets that have done much to slow the disease. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, just half of the population has access to malaria-preventing bed nets. Even with expected increases this year and next in distribution of bed nets, the numbers available may still be several million short of the 150 million needed to cover everyone at risk.
Underlying the progress made since 2000 is a massive ramp-up of funding. In 2000, international funding for malaria prevention was under $100 million per year. By 2012 this rose to nearly $2 billion, with an additional $500 million in funding being allocated in malaria-endemic nations.
It sounds like a lot, but, like the shortfalls in bed net distribution to ensure universal access, this $2.5 billion in funding is still just under half of what the WHO says is required to provided to ensure that all those people who need access to malaria prevention, diagnostic, and treatment services have them.