GEVENA, SWITZERLAND – This year’s commemoration of World Malaria Day celebrates the progress being made in eliminating the disease. The World Health Organization is calling for action to build on these achievements and continue the work to create a malaria-free world.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple other crises, 24 countries are reported to have stopped malaria transmission for three or more years by the end of 2020. To date, 38 countries and territories have been certified malaria-free by the World Health Organization, including most recently El Salvador, Algeria and Sri Lanka.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said malaria elimination is a viable goal for all countries, no matter how far they may be from the ultimate target.
“WHO has identified a set of 25 countries … with a potential to reach zero malaria within the next five years. Working together, building on each other’s success and supported with sustained funding, we can dare to dream of a malaria-free world.”
Malaria is a preventable, treatable disease. Yet, every year it kills more than 400,000 people, most of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, more than 200 million people become newly infected with this deadly parasitic disease every year.
Over the last 20 years, WHO reports more than 7.5 million deaths and 1.5 billion cases have been averted, most in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite this remarkable progress, director of WHO’s Global Malaria Program, Pedro Alonso, says most cases and deaths continue to take place in Africa.
“While Africa is the source of many of the big success stories in terms of impact, it is also the place that carries the brunt of the disease and where we are finding it hard to make further progress. Nigeria and DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), because they are also very large populations, account for nearly 50% of all the global burden of disease.
WHO says political commitment is crucial to ending malaria. The U.N. health agency says most countries that have reached zero malaria have strong primary health care systems that ensure access to malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
WHO estimates up to $4.5 billion a year will be required to stamp out malaria.