Great progress has been made in the fight against malaria in the last ten years. Since 2000, the incidence of this life-threatening disease has fallen by 17% and malaria mortality rates have decreased by 25% globally. According to preliminary data from a study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) on the Spanish contribution to the fight against malaria, Spain has taken on a leadership role in the international effort to prevent and control this disease.
"The case of the fight against malaria is unique in Spain because it brings together the determination of civil society and the scientific excellence of Spanish researchers with the support of both government and private industry" according to Pedro Alonso, the Director of ISGlobal. The advances achieved are still fragile, however, and malaria remains one of the most difficult challenges facing global health. The disease is still present in 99 countries and it is estimated that there were about 216 million cases in 2010 resulting in some 655,000 deaths worldwide, mostly among children under five years of age living in sub-Saharan Africa.
Using the Lives Saved Tool (LiST), the ISGlobal study has calculated that mosquito nets funded by Spanish aid may have saved the lives of more than 100,000 children over the past eight years. A large proportion of Spain's financial contribution—over 500 million euro between 2003 and 2012 channelled primarily through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria—has been invested in activities aimed at controlling the disease, including insecticide-treated mosquito nets as well as diagnostic methods and a range of therapies. However, it is in the field of R&D that Spain's leadership has been most important in the international effort. There are currently eighteen Spanish research groups doing work related to malaria. These include teams working in public hospitals and universities, two research platforms in endemic countries (Mozambique and Equatorial Guinea) financed by Spanish Aid, several NGOs and one of the few private sector research centres specialising in diseases that affect the developing countries of the world.