New Delhi: The World Health Organisation on Monday called for accelerated scale-up of efforts to prevent malaria and save lives.
At an event on the eve of World Malaria Day in Nairobi, the UN health agency said more than 663 million cases have been averted since 2001 in sub-Saharan Africa, which shoulders 90% of the global malaria burden.
Insecticide-treated nets have had the greatest impact, accounting for an estimated 69% of cases prevented through control tools.
Together with diagnosis and treatment, WHO recommends a package of proven prevention approaches, including insecticide treated nets, spraying indoor walls with insecticides, and preventive medicines for the most vulnerable groups: pregnant women, under-fives and infants.
"WHO-recommended tools have made a measurable difference in the global malaria fight," said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. "But we need a much bigger push for prevention, especially in Africa, which bears the greatest burden of malaria."
WHO's latest report spotlights critical gaps in prevention coverage, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
An estimated 43% of people at risk of malaria in the region were not protected by either a net or indoor insecticide spraying in 2015. Approximately 69% of pregnant women in 20 African countries did not have access to the recommended 3 or more doses of preventive treatment.
However, the rate of new malaria cases fell by 21% globally between 2010 and 2015, according to the World Malaria Report 2016. Malaria death rates fell by 29% in the same 5-year period
In sub-Saharan Africa, case incidence and death rates fell by 21% and 31%, respectively.
Other regions have made substantial gains in their malaria responses, but the disease remains a major public health threat.
In 2015, the global tally of malaria reached 429 000 malaria deaths and 212 million new cases. One child died from malaria every 2 minutes.
World Malaria Day (WMD) is an international event commemorated every year on 25 April and recognizes global efforts to control malaria. It falls in World Immunization Week 24-30 April which celebrates the widespread use of vaccines that protect people against 26 diseases. Overall, vaccines prevent an estimated 2-3 million deaths each year.