World Health Organization sounds wake-up call to counter stall in anti-malaria fight

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We are sadly reporting that 4,45,000 deaths caused by malaria n 2016 and 4,46,000 deaths in 2015 and 15 countries were responsible for the 80 percent of deaths in which 14 other Sub-Saharan African countries and India are included.

In his foreword in the report, WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus talks about how from the time when malaria was among the big public health success stories, the overall decline in the global malaria burden has "unquestionably leveled off" and some countries are actually showing reversals in trends. "We are now at a turning point". A year ago on our continent, malaria killed 407,000 people and robbed us of US$12 billion in lost productivity, investment and associated health care costs. Despite this, India accounts for 6 per cent of all malaria cases reported globally. According to WHO's latest malaria report, the world is not on track to reach these critical milestones.

One of the major problems is insufficient funding at domestic and worldwide levels, which has led to major gaps in providing insecticide-treated nets, medications, and other malaria-fighting tools, according to the 196-page report. "Countries with weak malaria surveillance systems include India and Nigeria, two major contributors to the global burden of malaria, with 8 per cent and 16 per cent of cases, respectively, detected by the surveillance system". The $2.7 billion invested in 2016 represents less than half of that amount.

Between 2000 and 2015, funding and the widespread uptake of new effective tools like artemisinin-based therapies, better diagnostics and insecticide-treated bed nets, led to a 60 per cent decrease in malaria deaths.

Meanwhile, a total of eight countries in Africa recorded a greater than 20% increase in cases in 2016 compared to 2015.

The 2017 World Malaria Report, released Wednesday in New Delhi, contains "some positive messages and findings", according to Pedro Alonso, MD, PhD, director of the agency's global malaria program.

"Plasmodium falciparum is the most prevalent malaria parasite in sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for 99 per cent of estimated malaria cases in 2016".

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Between 2014 and 2016, substantial increases in case incidence occurred in the WHO Region of the Americas, and marginally in the WHO Southeast Asia, Western Pacific and African regions.

"As African leaders, we must use the release of the World Malaria Report 2017 to energize our collective effort in the fight against one of our continent's most devastating diseases".

Many areas, however, still have low access to public health systems, according to the WHO.

In Nigeria's Borno State, for example, World Health Organization said it supported the launch of a mass antimalarial drug administration campaign this year that reached an estimated 1.2 million children aged under five years in targeted areas. He urged countries and the global health community to boost funding to save lives. Between 2014 and 2016, 39% of African children under the age of five who developed fevers were not taken to a trained health-care provider, the WHO report says, citing household surveys.

The report also pour light on the 76 malaria endemic countries that provided data for 2010 to 2016, resistance to at least one insecticide in one malaria vector from one collection site was detected in 61 countries. "If we continue with a business-as-usual approach - employing the same level of resources and the same interventions - we will face near-certain increases in malaria cases and deaths".

"Meeting the global malaria targets will only be possible through greater investment and expanded coverage of core tools that prevent, diagnose and treat malaria", he said. "Robust financing for the research and development of new tools is equally critical", he asserted.

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