The Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), WHO, the German organization for development DSW and Spain's Permanent Representation in the EU organized an event in Brussels to present the main results and conclusions of the World Malaria Report 2015 a few hours before its official publication, and to underline the remaining challenges for malaria elimination. With more than 70 attendees including parliamentarians, experts and representatives of the Spanish government, Dr. Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme, Rafael Vilasanjuan, director of Analysis and Global Development at ISGlobal, and Ambassador Juan de Aristegui, Deputy Permanent Representative of Spain to the EU, presented the major advances in the fight against the disease over the last 15 years.
The figures speak for themselves. Since 2000, the overall malaria incidence and mortality have fallen by 37% and 60% respectively. Six million deaths have been averted and 900 million USD have been saved in case management costs. For the first time, there is no malaria transmission within the European Region and the great majority of malaria cases and deaths (80%) are concentrated in fifteen countries (led by Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and India). The data are particularly encouraging for the most vulnerable population: among children under five, the number of deaths due to malaria has fallen from over 700,000 in 2000 to an estimated 300,000 in 2015, and malaria has passed from being the leading cause of death in infants in Sub-Saharan Africa to the fourth position.
"The reports shows progress in key issues" says Rafael Vilasanjuan "and the results are in keeping with the new Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria that aims to reduce malaria mortality by 90% and eliminate the disease in 35 countries by 2030."
Nevertheless, as the report underlines, there is still a long road ahead. In 2015, malaria was responsible for 200 million new cases and 430,000 deaths. In addition, 30% of the population at risk does not have access to bed nets or indoor residual spraying, while half of pregnant women do not have access to preventive treatments and up to 80% of children under five do not have access to artemisinin-based combination therapies. "New challenges have emerged" explains Pedro Alonso "and the spread of mosquito resistance to insecticides and drug resistance could jeopardize recent gains in malaria control".
The targets set by the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030 are ambitious but achievable, and will require a strong leadership, political commitment and a tripling of global investment for malaria control.