London: Malaria death rates have plunged by 60 percent since 2000, translating into 6.2 million lives saved, the vast majority of them children, according to a joint WHO-UNICEF report released on September 17.
The report, achieving the Malaria Millennium Development Goal (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 per cent in 15 years.
"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."
An increasing number of countries are on the verge of eliminating malaria. In 2014, 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.
In 2015, 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.
"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."
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.
New research from the Malaria Atlas Project, a WHO Collaborating Centre based at the University of Oxford, shows that ITNs have been by "far the most important intervention" across Africa, accounting for an estimated 68 per cent of malaria cases prevented since 2000.
ACTs and indoor residual spraying contributed to 22 per cent and 10 per cent of cases prevented, respectively. The research, published yesterday in the journal Nature, provides strong support for increasing access to these core interventions in post-2015 malaria control strategies.
In May 2015, the World Health Assembly adopted the WHO Global Technical Strategy forMalaria, a new 15-year road map for malaria control. The strategy aims at a further 90 per cent reduction in global malaria incidence and mortality by 2030.
The WHO- UNICEF report notes that these targets can only be achieved with political will, country leadership and significantly increased investment. Annual funding for malaria will need to triple-from $2.7 billion today to $8.7 billion in 2030.