Malaria eradication targets not feasible – WHO

Malaria eradication

A 3-year study of trends and future projections for the factors and determinants that underpin malaria, has reaffirmed that even though Malaria eradication is a goal worth pursuing, the world is far from a malaria-free.

The study was conducted by WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication (SAGme).

Malaria is a disease of the most vulnerable: the very young and the poor. Every year, there are about 219 million cases of the disease, and more than 400 000 deaths. Children under 5 years of age account for 61% of all malaria deaths while over 90% of malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa (WHO, 2018). Eradicating malaria would have the greatest beneficial impact on the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Potential Threats

The report said it had identified threats to the eradication process such as;

  • insecticide and antimalarial drug resistance,
  • lack of sufficient and continued commitment from countries and international donors,
  • insufficient political commitment and
  • failure to engage opinion leaders, political leaders, and the private sector.

Getting back on Track

The report called for more investment in research and development of new tools and approaches to fight malaria, stronger universal health coverage so that everyone can access the services they need, and better surveillance to guide a more targeted malaria response.

The Eradication Journey

The WHO’s Global Malaria Eradication Programme (GMEP; 19551969) was an ambitious attempt to achieve a malaria-free world. While the GMEP led to the elimination of malaria in many countries, it failed to achieve global eradication and the plan was not implemented in sub-Saharan Africa where the greatest burden of malaria was found (Nájera et al., 2011).

Falling short of eradication led to a sense of defeat, the neglect of malaria control efforts and abandonment of research into new tools and approaches. Malaria came back with a vengeance; millions of deaths followed. It took decades for the world to be ready to fight back against malaria.

Almost 50 years later, the world once again began to consider the feasibility of eradicating malaria. Significant declines in the global malaria mortality rate and case incidence between 2000 and 2015 and an increasing number of countries certified malaria-free generated renewed enthusiasm for tackling one of the main causes of death and disease in the world.

In 2015, the Sixty-eighth World Health Assembly unanimously endorsed a bold plan – the Global technical strategy for malaria 2016– 2030 – to rid the world of 90% of the burden of death and disease due to malaria by 2030 and to eliminate this infection from at least 35 more countries (WHO, 2015).

These ambitious yet achievable targets are considered essential stepping stones on the path to achieving a world free of malaria, the vision that was reaffirmed in the plan.

In 2016, at the request of the WHO Director-General, a group of scientists and public health experts from around the world were brought together to advise WHO on future scenarios for malaria, including whether eradication was feasible. Over three years, the members of the Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication (SAGme), analysed trends and reviewed future projections for the factors and determinants that underpin malaria.