24 countries from every region eliminated malaria since 2000, 25 more on target to eliminate by 2025
Seattle/Washington/Delhi, 22 April – Increased investment in malaria programs is crucial to protecting gains to-date, accelerating progress against the disease, and building resilient health systems capable of responding to and preventing COVID-19 and future pandemics.
More than a year into the global COVID-19 response, the pandemic’s impact on the malaria fight remains uncertain. Last year, countries and partners in high malaria burden countries responded quickly and heroically to the pandemic, adapting delivery plans and protocols and using real-time information to deliver more than 90% of planned malaria prevention campaigns. The efforts were critical in avoiding the World Health Organization’s predicted worst-case scenario of a doubling of malaria deaths. In low-burden settings, countries such as El Salvador, which was certified malaria-free in February, maintained their vigilance to keep malaria cases at zero.
However, new research from The Global Fund to End AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria suggests malaria diagnoses fell by 31% during 2020, a reminder that countries must urgently invest in programs and broader health systems to accelerate progress against malaria and prevent future health crises.
The pandemic has highlighted that mobilizing frontline capacity and personnel is the most effective approach to reducing the burden of existing infectious diseases and responding to emerging health crises. The recent Leave No Fevers Unresolved report reinforces how community health workers in Uganda, Rwanda, Mozambique, the Greater Mekong Subregion and elsewhere have been upskilled and redeployed to tackle the COVID-19 crisis.
“The capacities needed to end humanity’s oldest disease, malaria, and its newest one, COVID-19, are largely the same,” said Martin Edlund, CEO of Malaria No More. “Investment in established, high-performing programs by the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative and the Global Fund can help protect those at greatest risk of malaria and COVID, while building stronger health system capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to the next pandemic.”
Despite the added challenge of COVID-19 this year, malaria elimination remains a viable goal. More countries than ever are on the cusp of elimination, with the World Health Organization yesterday announcing 25 countries in reach of zero malaria cases within five years. Since 2000, thanks to committed governments and sustained funding, dedicated community health workers and effective surveillance, 24 countries from every region of the world reached zero malaria cases and deaths. Some regions, such as the Greater Mekong Subregion, have reduced malaria cases by 97% and deaths by 99% since the turn of the century.
U.S investments vital to success against malaria
As the largest contributor to the global fight to end malaria, U.S. investment, channeled through the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and The Global Fund, has been essential to saving hundreds of thousands of lives every year and putting the world on a path to ending malaria. By building stronger, safer, and more equitable health systems, these investments also advance global health security, which is critical for preventing the spread of future pandemics.
“President Biden can leverage a life-saving program, the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative, launched by President Bush in 2005 and championed by Democrats and Republicans in Congress since inception. Surging malaria interventions would immediately help to save lives from COVID-19 and, malaria, and advance our capabilities in pandemic surveillance and preparedness for current and future global health threats,” said Kara Saleeby, Director, Global Policy & Advocacy, Malaria No More.
Since its inception in 2005, U.S. bipartisan leaders have recognized the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) as one of the best investments in global health. With year-over-year budget increases over the past 15 years, the initiative expanded from 3 to 27 countries in the highest malaria burden countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and Greater Mekong Subregion. Today, PMI protects more than 700 million people from malaria each year. Click here to learn more about PMI’s 15 years of impact and here for its 2021 report to Congress.
India’s progress essential for Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination by 2030
Among the high-burden countries, India demonstrated impressive gains against malaria before the onset of COVID19 pandemic. Just last year, the Indian Government reported a more than 70% reduction in malaria cases and deaths between 2015 and 2019.
To mitigate COVID’s impact on India’s progress towards malaria elimination, Malaria No More joined with partners at Facebook, The Times of India, Star India, WPP and Sony Pictures Networks India to launch “Bite Ko Mat Lo Lite,” a national media campaign that raised the urgency of staying protected from malaria and the importance of seeking treatment of fevers within 24 hours, even during COVID-19. The campaign reached more than 150 million Indians across 21 states in 2020.
Dr Kaushik Sarkar, Technical Director at Malaria No More India, called on the government and partners to remain focused on malaria elimination. “With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in India, protecting India’s progress against malaria and keeping people safe from the disease is critical for freeing up health capacity in terms of providers, hospitals and health clinics. We must do more to understand the disease’s true burden in the country through data to better target life-saving tools, and apply modern technologies to underpin innovative approaches that will help us stamp out malaria.”
India’s significant progress in the last four years has been disproportionately driven by committed resources, innovation, central support, and determination by the government of Odisha State, formerly India’s highest malaria burden state. Through increased access to life-saving tools and malaria interventions, investments in community health workers to improve surveillance and educate those at greatest risk, and the adoption and scaling of new strategies, Odisha State achieved a greater than 90% reduction in malaria cases between 2016 and 2020. The state government has been recognized as an innovative leader in reducing the toll of malaria on rural health systems.
World Malaria Day
World Malaria Day, celebrated on April 25, is an occasion to highlight global efforts to end malaria and the need for sustained political commitment and continued investment for malaria control and elimination. This year’s theme, ‘Zero Malaria - Draw the Line Against Malaria,’ recognizes the successes achieved in the global fight to end malaria by countries around the world and demonstrates that zero malaria is within reach for all countries. To accelerate action on the continent and harness the energy of Africa’s youth, in February the RBM Partnership launched ‘Draw the Line Against Malaria’ – a youth-focused, Africa-first global campaign.
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About Malaria No More
Malaria No More envisions a world where no one dies from a mosquito bite. More than a decade into our mission, our work has contributed to historic progress toward this goal. Now, we’re mobilizing the political commitment, funding, and innovation required to achieve what would be one of the greatest humanitarian accomplishments – ending malaria within our generation. For more information, visit www.malarianomore.org.