25th April is celebrated as World Malaria Day each year. This year, the theme is ‘Zero malaria starts with me’.
Since 2000, malaria-affected countries and their development partners have made remarkable progress in reducing the total number of malaria cases and deaths.
But the toll of malaria remains unacceptably high. Every two minutes, a child dies of this preventable and treatable disease. And each year, more than 200 million new cases of the disease are reported.
After more than a decade of steady advances in fighting malaria, progress has levelled off. According to WHO’s latest World Malaria Report, no significant gains were made in reducing malaria cases in the period 2015 to 2017. The estimated number of malaria deaths in 2017, at 435 000, remained virtually unchanged over the previous year.
The WHO African Region continues to shoulder more than 90% of the global malaria burden. Worryingly, in the 10 African countries hardest hit by malaria, there were an estimated 3.5 million more cases of the disease in 2017 over the previous year.
The latest World malaria report highlights major coverage gaps in access to core WHO-recommended tools for preventing, detecting and treating malaria, particularly in the world’s highest burden countries.
- In 2017, half (50%) of the population at risk of malaria in Africa slept under an insecticide-treated net, a similar figure to the previous year and a marginal improvement since 2015.
- Just over 1 in 5 (22%) eligible pregnant women in Africa received the recommended three or more doses of preventive therapy in 2017, compared with 17% in 2015.
- Less than half (48%) of children with a fever in Africa were taken to a trained medical provider (2015-2017).
While progress in the global response to malaria has levelled off, a subset of countries with a low burden of malaria is moving quickly towards elimination. In 2017:
- 46 countries reported fewer than 10 000 indigenous malaria cases, up from 37 countries in 2010
- 26 countries reported fewer than 100 malaria cases, up from 15 countries in 2010.
China and El Salvador reported zero indigenous cases of malaria in 2017 – a first for both countries.
Countries that achieve at least 3 consecutive years of zero indigenous cases can apply for an official WHO certification of malaria elimination. In 2018, two countries reached this milestone: Paraguay and Uzbekistan.
Some countries with a high burden of malaria are also making strong strides in reducing their burden of the disease.
- India – a country that represents 4% of the global malaria burden – registered a 24% reduction in cases in 2017 compared to 2016.
- Other countries that noted considerable declines in cases in 2017 include Ethiopia (-8.9%), Pakistan (-20.5%) and Rwanda (-6.6%).
This World Malaria Day, WHO joins the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership to End Malaria, the African Union Commission and other partner organizations in promoting “Zero malaria starts with me”, a grassroots campaign that aims to:
- keep malaria high on the political agenda
- mobilize additional resources
- empower communities to take ownership of malaria prevention and care
As a response to the data and trends published in the World malaria report, WHO and the RBM Partnership recently catalyzed “High burden to high impact”, a new approach to get the malaria fight back on track, particularly in countries that carry the highest burden of disease. The approach is founded on 4 pillars:
- Political will to reduce malaria deaths
- Strategic information to drive impact
- Better guidance, policies and strategies
- A coordinated national malaria response
Pillar 1 calls on leaders of malaria-affected countries to translate their stated political commitments into resources and tangible actions that will save more lives. To this end, campaigns that engage communities and country leaders – like “Zero malaria starts with me” – can foster an environment of accountability and action.
Link to the World Malaria Day 2019 website:
Link to World Malaria Report 2018:
Link to WHO fact sheet on malaria: