Malaria eradication on the agenda at the 141st WHO Executive Board meeting

2 June 2017

Recent progress in national malaria responses has prompted renewed discussion around the ultimate goal of global malaria eradication. In addition to significant reductions in morbidity and mortality, 17 countries have eliminated malaria (i.e. attained zero indigenous cases for 3 years or more) since 2000. Six of these countries have been certified by WHO as malaria-free.

Last August, at the request of the Director-General, WHO established an advisory group to analyse future scenarios for malaria, including eradication. The Strategic advisory group for malaria eradication (SAG) developed a first report clarifying current terminology on “elimination” and “eradication” and affirming the Organization’s long-standing commitment to eradication without specifying an end date.

Meeting on 1 June in Geneva, members of the WHO Executive Board (EB) expressed strong appreciation for the report and for the creation of the advisory group. They requested that the WHO Director-General report back to the EB after the work of the SAG has been completed.

Definition of key terms

Malaria elimination is the interruption of local transmission (reduction to zero incidence of indigenous cases) of a specified malaria parasite in a defined geographical area as a result of deliberate activities. Continued measures to prevent re-establishment of transmission are required.

Malaria eradication is the permanent reduction to zero of the worldwide incidence of infection caused by human malaria parasites as a result of deliberate activities. Interventions are no longer required once eradication has been achieved.

Interventions by EB members and delegates

The hour-long discussion, held at WHO headquarters, included a number of interventions from both EB members and other delegates. A total of 28 countries took the floor and there was wide support for this WHO initiative.

Speaking on behalf of the WHO Secretariat, Dr Ren Minghui noted that some partners have proposed a theoretical target date of 2040 for malaria eradication, and that this is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a “United Nations goal.” He clarified that WHO has set no such target.

Strategic advisory group on malaria eradication

The SAG is composed of 13 eminent leaders and scientists representing a range of disciplines and geographies. They are supported by representatives from WHO collaborating centres, WHO staff and other key stakeholders.

At the most recent SAG meeting, held in February 2017, members defined a set of work streams for the next 2-year period that are cross-cutting and span a breadth of domains: biological, technical, financial, socio-economic, political and environmental. The next SAG meeting will be held in New Delhi in late November.