By Chika Onyesi
The World Health Organisation has called for renewed political commitment and increased investments on malaria prevention and control.
The global health agency wants governments to mobilize all necessary internal and external resources, and ensure inter-sectoral and cross-border collaboration in the fight to control malaria.
According to the WHO Regional Director for Africa, there must be an accelerated pace of progress if the world is to achieve a 40% drop in global malaria cases and deaths by 2020, compared to 2015 levels.
‘‘This will propel countries along the road to elimination and contribute to the achievement of other Sustainable Development Goals, such as improving maternal and child health’’. She says
Despite the financial challenges in malaria elimination, the story in Africa is not all gloom.
Between 2010 and 2017, the estimated number of new malaria cases in the African Region dropped from 206 million to 200 million, the number of malaria-related deaths also fell from 555,000 to 403,000.
Two countries in the Region (Ethiopia and Rwanda) are among 20 countries globally that experienced a significant decrease in malaria cases (by more than 20%) and deaths in 2017 compared to 2016.
Although countries across the African Region have led efforts to expand access to malaria control, the 2018 edition of the World Malaria Report reveals an increase of 3.5 million cases of malaria in the ten highest burden African countries, as compared to 2016.
Alarmingly for Africa, of the 15 countries that contributed to 80% of the worldwide malaria burden, all but India are in sub-Saharan Africa; in addition to India, ten of these 15 countries account for about 70% of global malaria cases and deaths.
To reverse the trend of rising cases in high-burden countries, Dr. Moeti says a ‘high burden to high impact’ (HBHI) country-led approach was launched in November 2018.
‘‘the strategy supported by the WHO and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership will use strategic information to drive impact and implement the best global policies for malaria-endemic countries’’
She says in addition, countries in the Region will continue to carry out malaria testing and treatment and also rely on preventive measures such the distribution and use of insecticide-treated nets and indoor spraying with insecticides as key strategies in combatting malaria.
But the good news is that half the people at risk of malaria across sub-Saharan Africa are now sleeping under insecticide-treated nets, even more in 2017 compared to 30% in 2010.
To sustain this progress the WHO wants regional governments to allocate more resources, work across sectors and strengthen cross-border collaboration.