On April 25th we observe World Malaria Day. It is an occasion to recognize the global effort to effectively control, and eventually wipe out, this terrible disease.
Unfortunately, after years of steady advances in fighting malaria, progress has stalled. According to the World Health Organization, or WHO, the number of malaria cases has not dropped between 2015 and 2017.
And there are further reasons for concern. In 2017, 70 percent, or about 151 million of the world’s malaria cases, occurred in 11 countries: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania and India.And although India reported a 24 percent decrease in malaria cases from 2016 to 2017, the WHO says that the ten sub-Saharan countries reported an increase of as many as 3.5 million cases.
Obviously, we must change what we have been doing. And that change will only occur if four key elements are met, notes the WHO.
First, there must be the political will to reduce malaria deaths. This means that governments must make the decision to dedicate enough resources to effectively tackle the disease at home.
Second, individual countries must step away from the one-size-fits-all model. Through better analysis and the strategic use of data, countries can pinpoint how and where to best use effective malaria control.
Third, best practices, policies and strategies must be shared and employed. The World Health Organization promises to draw on the best evidence to establish global guidance that can be adapted by high burden countries for a range of local settings.
And finally, national responses to the disease must be well coordinated. Health sector response must be complemented in other sectors, such as environment, education and agriculture.
That is why this year’s World Malaria Day theme is “Zero malaria starts with me.”It is a grassroots campaign that aims to keep malaria high on the political agenda, mobilize more resources, and deeper participation in malaria prevention and care at the community level.
Since 2000, the world has made historic progress against malaria, saving millions of lives. However, half the world still lives at risk from this preventable, treatable disease, one that not only kills and sickens millions, but also remains both a major cause and a consequence of global poverty.
With renewed focus and commitment, we can be the generation to end one of the oldest and deadliest diseases in human history.