Focusing on malaria in Africa

What is malaria?

Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by plasmodium parasites that are transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes. Nearly half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria in 2015. The risk of severe disease is greatest among children under the age of five, pregnant women, people with HIV/AIDS and transient populations.

Where is malaria most prevalent?

Malaria is preventable and treatable, yet remains a major cause of death and disability, especially in Africa and among children.

Malaria remains a significant cause of ill health and mortality and is among the top five global causes of child mortality. Unfortunately, we do not know the exact malaria burden globally, regionally or in most cases nationally. However, models suggest that there were an estimated 212 million cases of malaria worldwide and an estimated 429,000 people died as a result.

Malaria is a problem in many of the world’s poorest countries. The poor are less able to prevent infection or afford effective clinical care. Although malaria transmission occurs in many parts of the world, the great majority of malaria deaths are in Africa (92% in 2015). Deaths are concentrated among children: 70% of the 2015 malaria deaths (330,000) were among children less than five years of age.

What progress is being made?

Although there is large global investments in malaria control, the need exceeds the resources. Substantial gains against malaria have been made since 2000.

Progress was made through a combination of political commitment, increased funding and widespread implementation of life-saving interventions. The Roll Back Malaria (RBM) partnership was initiated in 1998 by WHO, UNICEF, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank, to provide a coordinated global response. Modelling suggests malaria incidence has fallen by 41% and mortality has fallen by 62% since 2000.

Progress to date was largely possible with massive increases in funding. Global funding per year for malaria increased from $50 million in 2000 to $2.9 billion in 2016. However, increases in funding are slowing, with annual global funding increasing by only $0.06 billion since 2010. A 54% increase funding is required to meet the estimated $6.4 billion needed annual to reach targets to reduce global malaria burden by 90% of 2015 levels by 2030.

To maintain and improve on progress against malaria, better use of data and evidence is needed to strategically target resources.