The global fight against malaria may suffer a setback following reduction in funding by international donors and governments of high burdened countries across the world.
According to a press statement by World Health Organisation on Wednesday, the 2017 World Malaria Report, indicated that global progress in malaria control has stalled.
The report said 216 million people in 91 countries were infected with malaria in 2016, an estimated five million more cases than in 2015.
The report also indicated that malaria death last year stood at around 445,000, a similar figure to that of the previous year.
WHO in the annual malaria report said a major problem of the campaign for malarial control and eradication was insufficient funding at both domestic and international levels, resulting in major gaps in coverage of insecticide-treated nets, medicines, and other life-saving tools.
The report shows that Africa continues to bear an estimated 90 per cent of all malaria cases and deaths worldwide in 2016.
Fifteen countries,all but one of them in sub-Saharan Africa, carry 80 per cent of the global malaria burden.
According to the report, Nigeria falls among the African countries with the high burden of malaria cases and deaths.
The report stated that while the rate of new cases of malaria had fallen overall since 2014, the trend has levelled off and even reversed in some regions.
Malaria mortality rates followed a similar pattern.
Malaria is a common health issue in Nigeria where drugs to treat the disease are commonly sold at drug stores. Most Nigerians also do not also use mosquito treated nets, in spite of appropriation of huge funds by many states to malaria elimination programmes.
Government at federal and state levels, in partnership with international health donors and non-governmental agencies, always embark on campaigns against malaria by distributing drugs, especially pregnant women, and mosquito treated nets.
Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, said if countries are to get the global malaria response back on track, supporting the most heavily affected countries in Africa must be the primary focus.
“In recent years, we have made major gains in the fight against malaria, we are now at a turning point. Without urgent action, we risk going backwards, and missing the global malaria targets for 2020 and beyond,” he said.
The new report also outlines additional challenges in the global malaria response, including the risks posed by conflict and crises in malaria endemic zones.
WHO is currently supporting malaria responses in Nigeria, South Sudan, Venezuela and Yemen, where ongoing humanitarian crises pose serious health risks.
In Nigeria’s Borno State, for example, WHO said it supported the launch of a mass antimalarial drug administration campaign this year that reached an estimated 1.2 million children aged under five years in targeted areas.
Early results point to a reduction in malaria cases and deaths in this state
According to WHO, an estimated $2.7 billion was invested in malaria control and elimination efforts globally in 2016, which is below the $6.5 billion annual investment required by 2020 to meet the 2030 target of the WHO global malaria strategy.
“In 2016, governments of endemic countries provided US$ 800 million, representing 31% of total funding. The United States of America was the largest international funder of malaria control programmes in 2016, providing US$1 billion (38% of all malaria funding), followed by other major donors, including the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, France, Germany and Japan,” the international health agency stated.
Pedro Alonso, Director of the Global Malaria Programme, commenting on the findings of this year’s report, said the world is at a crossroads in the response to malaria and expressed the hope that this report would serve as a wake-up call for the global health community.
“Meeting the global malaria targets will only be possible through greater investment and expanded coverage of core tools that prevent, diagnose and treat malaria,” he said.
“Robust financing for the research and development of new tools is equally critical. The WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria calls for reductions of at least 40% in malaria case incidence and mortality rates by the year 2020. According to WHO’s latest malaria report, the world is not on track to reach these critical milestones,” he said.