WHO releases 2016 World Malaria Report

WWARN Published Date

Over the past decade, the global health community has made huge gains in the battle against malaria. The World Health Organization’s annual World Malaria Report, out this week, highlights gains in vulnerable populations and challenges in global coverage.

This week the WHO released the 2016 World Malaria Report. Malaria remains a major public health problem, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the report, there were 212 million new cases of malaria and 429 000 deaths worldwide in 2015 – down from 438,000 deaths in 2014.

This report provides a comprehensive overview of how the public health community is combatting this deadly disease. It summarises data received from malaria-endemic countries and presents the latest global mortality and morbity estimates.

The report highlights that children and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa – two of the most vulnerable groups infected with malaria - have greater access to effective malaria control. Across the region, a marked increase in diagnostic testing for children and intermittent preventive treatment (IPTp) for pregnant women has been reported over the last five years.

To support the progress made with malaria preventative treatments in pregnant women in sub-Saharan, WWARN and the Malaria in Pregnancy (MIP) Consortium have set up a new MiP Scientific Group which comprises the Sulphadoxine Pyrimethamine Resistance (SP) Data Access Group. SP is the preventative treatment of choice for pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa but drug resistance threatens its efficacy. This group aims to provide maps and access to the most recent data on molecular markers of SP resistance to help policy makers make informed decisions with regard to use of SP for intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy (IPTp).

Global access to key anti-malarial interventions has improved over the last year but the report also highlights substantial gaps in programme coverage in many malaria endemic regions. Funding shortfalls and fragile health systems are undermining overall progress, placing global targets against malaria in jeopardy. If global targets for funding against malaria are to be met, the report suggests that funding from both domestic and international sources must increase substantially.

More recently the Lancet Infectious Diseases released an editorial article in support of sustaining the investment and efforts to fight malaria. Concerns were raised over the potential for reduced funding and political will from major national governments, including the USA. 'Despite the striking achievements so far, this is not the time for wavering political commitment—a risk given recent events. The outcome of the US presidential election has created some nervousness about the future position of the USA on malaria. However, as noted in this month's Newsdesk, president-elect Trump did single-out malaria as a global health issue that deserved support during his campaign.' 

Dr Pedro Alonso, Director of the Global Malaria Programme at the WHO concludes, "We are definitely seeing progress, but the world is still struggling to achieve the high levels of programme coverage that are needed to beat this disease."

Download the World Malaria Report 2016.