Washington: Since the 1930s, there have been 75 documented episodes of malaria resurgence worldwide, most of which were associated with weakening of malaria control programs, a new study has suggested.
The study found that the most common reason for weakening of malaria control programs was funding disruptions.
Low cost treatment is available and simple solutions to prevent the diseases, like insecticide treated mosquito nets and malaria prevention during pregnancy, have all been shown to reduce the number of deaths due to malaria.
Initiatives like Roll Back Malaria, set up in 1998, aim to reduce child mortality due to malaria by two thirds, by 2015, using large scale implementation of these simple solutions.
Researchers from the Clinton Health Access Initiative, the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, and the Global Health Group at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) conducted a systematic review of the literature to identify all documented malaria resurgence events where malaria had returned to an area previously under control.
The causes of malaria resurgence were categorized as being due to weakened malaria control programs, increased intensity of malaria transmission (such movement of people or mosquitoes, weather, or changes in land use), or technical obstacles including resistance of the malaria parasite to drugs. 91 percent of the 75 resurgence events found were blamed at least in part on the weakening of malaria control programs.
“Malaria control programs have been shown to be extremely successful in reducing the number of cases of malaria to very low levels, but history demonstrates that gains can be lost rapidly if financial and political support is not sustained,” lead author Justin Cohen, PhD, MPH of the Clinton Health Access Initiative explained.
“Finding ways to ensure continued funding for malaria control today will be crucial to building on the gains of the past decade.”
Investments in malaria control have created unprecedented momentum and yielded remarkable returns in the past years.
However, the future of anti-malaria programs is uncertain as current funding is projected to decline over the next few years.
Sir Richard Feachem, KBE, FREng, DSc(Med), PhD, who was the founding Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and current Director of the UCSF Global Health Group, calls on the malaria community and donors to heed these results in order to continue the fight against malaria.
“This work demonstrates the historical evidence on what happens when malaria control efforts and funding streams prematurely turn their attention away from malaria. This paradox of success needs greater attention to maximize our investments in malaria control and elimination,” Sir Feachem added.
Finding innovative ways to continue investing in successful malaria control and elimination programs is necessary to ensure that the dramatic progress in the fight against malaria is maintained and extended.
Maintaining support for these programs will allow them to continue to save thousands of lives year after year.
The study has been published in BioMed Central``s open access journal Malaria Journal.