Statement made at the launch of the World malaria report 2008
Dr Margaret Chan
Director-General of the World Health Organization
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today, the World Health Organization is launching the first in a series of annual reports profiling the world malaria situation in facts and figures. We have several reasons for doing so.
First, we need better malaria data right now, and we need to start a process of progressively improving data collection and analysis, year by year. In addition, we need strategic data that can guide the operational response to this devastating disease.
We need to know where the burden is greatest, what policies have been introduced, what funds are available, what interventions are being purchased and distributed, and what is the impact.
Malaria is overwhelmingly a disease of poor people living in remote places. We need to ask the questions. Are these people being reached? Are children – the most vulnerable group – being protected by long-lasting insecticidal nets?
Malaria can kill within 24 hours. Are effective treatments close at hand in populations at greatest risk?
This is the type of information presented in the world malaria report. And this is the type of information that is urgently needed right now.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In just the past few years, the world has woken up to malaria in a way that has not been seen for decades. We have seen a striking turnaround in the prospects for malaria control.
Commitment to act is high within the international community, but also within hard-hit countries. Funds are flowing in from international partnerships, donors, foundations, and funding agencies, but also from the domestic budgets of affected countries.
Money is being used to purchase powerful interventions: insecticide-treated nets that remain effective for at least three years, ACT medicines, the newest and best-yet class of drugs for treatment. More money is also being invested in research to develop better control tools, including a vaccine.
This is the billion-dollar moment for a centuries old disease.
WHO has a duty to direct and protect this investment, especially at the operational level. We do so with evidence.
The report demonstrates progress. Let me remind you: this progress takes place against a backdrop of decades of setbacks and painfully slow results.
As the report shows, declines of 50% or more in reported cases and deaths have been achieved in a few African countries with high population coverage with control interventions.
In the 18 African countries with surveys for 2006, the percentage of children protected by nets increased almost eightfold compared with 2001. The number of doses of ACT drugs supplied to public health services rose from 6 million in 2005 to 49 million in 2006, with the largest supply to Africa.
Logic tells us that, attacked on the current scale, and on multiple fronts, malaria must yield. Yet despite this progress, we know that millions of children are still not protected by bednets and do not have access to effective medicines.
Let me make a final comment. Some of the most ambitious country-wide initiatives have been launched in just the past two years. The impact is not yet measured in the current report, which mainly uses data for 2006.
We have good news already, in terms of commitment and evidence that interventions work. I am personally confident that we will have even better news next year, as we continue these annual reports on the world malaria situation.
Right now, the momentum continues to build. Next week, malaria partners will convene at the United Nations in New York to unveil a new Global Malaria Action Plan. This plan sets out the actions needed to dramatically reduce malaria deaths by 2015. The world malaria report will be the yardstick for measuring progress towards that goal.