April 25, 2016, marks World Malaria Day – a day to celebrate the gains made in the fight against malaria. Each year, this day highlights global efforts to control malaria and mobilizes action to combat the disease.
Organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), which is the United Nations’ (UN) directing and coordinating authority for health, actively play a role in promoting and supporting World Malaria Day. The activities and events that take place on or around World Malaria Day are often joint efforts between governments, non-government organizations, communities and individuals.
Malaria-endemic countries have made incredible gains in malaria in the last decade, but sustaining them will take extra efforts until the job is finished and malaria is eliminated worldwide. While efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria have gained important momentum over the past years, an annual shortfall in funding threatens to slow down progress, particularly across Africa where high-burden countries are facing critical funding gaps. Unless the world can find a way to bridge the funding gaps and endemic countries have the resources and technical support they need to implement sound malaria control plans, malaria resurgence will likely take many more lives.
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. About half of the worlds’ population is at risk of malaria, particularly those in lower-income countries. It infects more than 500 million people each year and kills more than one million people, according to WHO. However, Malaria is preventable and curable. The World Health Assembly instituted World Malaria Day in May 2007.
Symptoms include: fever, headache, chills and vomiting – may be mild and difficult to recognize as malaria. If not treated within 24 hours, P. falciparum malaria can progress to severe illness, often leading to death.
Here are some key facts about the deadly disease:
- 3.2 billion (almost half of the world population) are at risk.
- There were 214 million new cases of malaria worldwide in 2015.
- In 2015, there were 438,000 deaths from malaria.
- Most of these deaths occurred in the African Region (90%), followed by the South-East Asia Region (7%) and the Eastern Mediterranean Region (2%).
- In 2015, malaria killed an estimated 306 000 under-fives globally, including 292 000 children in the African Region.
- The theme for 2016 is “End Malaria For Good”. Following the great progress made under the Millennium Development Goals, it is important to build on this success and ‘end malaria for good’ under the Sustainable Development Goals.
- Between 2000 and 2015, malaria incidence rates (new malaria cases) fell by 37% globally, and by 42% in Africa. During this same period, malaria mortality rates fell by 60% globally and by 66% in the African Region.
- Smart investments and strong partnerships have resulted in dramatic progress against malaria in the past 15 years.
- For the first time, the European Region reported zero indigenous cases of malaria in 2015.
- In 2015, 97 countries had ongoing malaria transmission.
- Currently, there is no effective malaria vaccine on the market although progress has been made in the 10 years toward developing malaria vaccines. GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals’ RTS,S, is the first malaria vaccine canditate to have completed pivotal Phase 3 testing and obtained a positive scientific opinion by a stringent medicines regulatory authority.
- RTS,S is a vaccine against Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite globally, and the most prevalent in Africa. It offers no protection against P. vivax malaria, which predominates in many countries outside of Africa.