Malaria

Fact sheet: WHO/UNICEF report “Achieving the malaria MDG target”

September 2015

This fact sheet includes key estimates from the joint WHO-UNICEF report, Achieving the malaria MDG target, published on 17 September 2015. The report charts global and regional progress towards the malaria-specific target of the 2000 Millennium Development Goals (MDG 6 target C), which called for halting and beginning to reverse the incidence of malaria by 2015. According to the report, this target has been met “convincingly”, with a 37% decline in global malaria incidence since 2000.

Disease burden in 2015

Malaria is an entirely preventable and treatable mosquito-borne illness. In 2015, 97 countries and territories had ongoing malaria transmission and an estimated 3.2 billion people – nearly half the world’s population – were at risk of malaria.

Progress

Between 2000 and 2015, malaria incidence (the rate of new cases of malaria) fell by 37% globally. During the same period, malaria mortality rates decreased worldwide by 60% among all age groups, and by 65% among children under 5. An estimated 6.2 million malaria deaths have been averted globally since 2000.

An increasing number of countries are on the verge of eliminating malaria. In 2014, 13 countries reported zero cases of the disease and 6 countries reported fewer than 10 cases. The fastest decreases were seen in the Caucasus and Central Asia (which reported zero cases of malaria in 2014) and in Eastern Asia.

Key challenges

Despite tremendous progress, malaria remains an acute public health problem in many regions. In 2015 alone, there were an estimated 214 million new malaria cases (range 149–303 million), and about 438 000 deaths (range 236 000–635 000).

In 2015, 15 countries accounted for 80% of malaria cases and 78% of deaths globally. Since 2000, the decline in malaria incidence in these 15 countries (32%) has lagged behind that of other countries globally (54%).

Most of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa, which continues to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2015, the region was home to 89% of malaria cases and 91% of malaria deaths.

Children under five

In areas with high transmission of malaria, children under five are particularly susceptible to infection, illness and death. More than two thirds (70%) of all malaria deaths occur in this age group.

Vector control is the main way to prevent and reduce malaria transmission. Two forms of vector control are effective in a wide range of circumstances: insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS).

Between 2000 and 2015, the proportion of children sleeping under an ITN in sub-Saharan Africa increased from less than 2% to approximately 68%. In 2015, an estimated 7% of children at risk of malaria in this region lived in a household protected by IRS. However, 25% of children in sub-Saharan Africa still live in a household with no ITN and no protection provided by IRS.

WHO recommends diagnostic testing for all patients with suspected malaria before treatment is administered. In 2015, most children suspected of having malaria were still not receiving a diagnostic test.

Since 2000, the use of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) for the treatment of fever in children has risen steadily. However, in 2015, only 13% of children with a fever in sub-Saharan Africa were estimated to have received an ACT.

WHO response

The WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030, adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2015, provides a technical framework for all malaria-endemic countries. It is intended to guide and support regional and country programmes as they work toward malaria control and elimination.

This Strategy was the result of an extensive consultative process that spanned two years and involved the participation of more than 400 technical experts from 70 Member States. It sets ambitious but achievable goals, including:

  • Reducing malaria case incidence by at least 90% by 2030;
  • Reducing malaria mortality rates by at least 90% by 2030;
  • Eliminating malaria in at least 35 countries by 2030;
  • Preventing a resurgence of malaria in all countries that are malaria-free.

Funding gap

Between 2000 and 2015, there was a 20-fold increase in global investment for malaria control. Domestic investments also increased year on year. This surge in funding led to the unprecedented roll-out of key, life-saving interventions to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria.

To achieve the targets of the WHO Global Technical Strategy, annual funding for malaria will need to triple over the next 15-year period, from US$ 2.7 billion (current level of spending) to US$ 8.7 billion (2030).

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