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Malaria death rates plunge by 60%: joint WHO-UNICEF report

Malaria death rates plunge by 60%: joint WHO-UNICEF report

6.2 million Lives have been saved from malaria since 2000, according to a to a joint WHO-UNICEF report released recently. This translated into a notable plunge by 60%, saving lives of mostly children who are the most affected in extreme poverty conditions.

The report – “Achieving the malaria MDG target” – shows that the malaria MDG target to “have halted and begun to reverse the incidence” of malaria by 2015, has been met “convincingly”, with new malaria cases dropping by 37% in 15 years.

The report presented a more optimistic outlook of the ground reality with an increasing number of countries reported to be on the verge of eliminating malaria. In 2014 alone, 13 countries reported zero cases of the disease and 6 countries reported fewer than 10 cases. The fastest decreases were seen in the Caucasus and Central Asia, which reported zero cases in 2014, and in Eastern Asia.

“Global malaria control is one of the great public health success stories of the past 15 years,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “It’s a sign that our strategies are on target, and that we can beat this ancient killer, which still claims hundreds of thousands of lives, mostly children, each year.”

However, WHO has still expressed strong concerns with malaria remaining an acute public health problem in many regions. In 2015 alone, there were an estimated 214 million new cases of malaria, and approximately 438 000 people died of this preventable and treatable disease. About 3.2 billion people – almost half of the world’s population – are at risk of malaria.

Some countries continue to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. Fifteen countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, accounted for 80% of malaria cases and 78% of deaths globally in 2015.

Children under 5 account for more than two-thirds of all deaths associated with malaria. Between 2000 and 2015, the under 5 malaria death rate fell by 65% or an estimated 5.9 million child lives saved.

“Malaria kills mostly young children, especially those living in the poorest and most remote places. So the best way to celebrate global progress in the fight against it is to recommit ourselves to reaching and treating them,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “We know how to prevent and treat malaria. Since we can do it, we must.”

Global bi-lateral and multi-lateral funding for malaria has increased 20-fold since 2000. Domestic investments within malaria-affected countries have also increased year by year.

A number of donor governments have made the fight against malaria a high global health priority. In the United States of America, the President’s Malaria Initiative has mobilized hundreds of millions of dollars for treatment and prevention, while the government of the United Kingdom tripled its funding for malaria control between 2008 and 2015.

Many governments have also channeled their investments through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, or directly to countries.

“A healthy, prosperous world is in all our interests and the prevention of deadly diseases is one of the smartest investments we can make.” said the Rt. Hon. Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development of the United Kingdom. “That is why, working with malaria-affected countries and partners like the Global Fund, Britain will continue to provide bednets to millions, tackle resistance to life saving medicines and insecticides, and boost health systems across Africa to help bring an end to this terrible disease.”

The surge in funding has led to an unprecedented expansion in the delivery of core interventions across sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2000, approximately 1 billion insecticide-treated bednets (ITNs) have been distributed in Africa. The increased use of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) has made it easier to distinguish between malarial and non-malarial fevers, enabling timely and appropriate treatment. Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are highly effective against Plasmodium falciparum, the most prevalent and lethal malaria parasite affecting humans, but drug resistance is a looming threat which must be prevented.

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