However, the “doomsday scenario” predicted WHO did not materialize, ”said Dr. Pedro Alonso, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Program, at the presentation of the UN agency’s annual Global Malaria Report in Geneva.
According to the analysis, moderate interruptions in malaria control services resulted in 14 million malaria cases and 69,000 deaths.…
Two thirds (or 47,000) of the additional deaths from malaria were due to interruptions in the provision of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria during a pandemic.
At the start of the pandemic, WHO predicted a doubling of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa as a worst-case scenario. However, the analysis showed that the number of deaths in the region increased by 12 percent between 2019 and 2020.
“The first message is good news. Through urgent and strenuous efforts, we can say that the world has averted the worst-case scenario of death from malaria.– said Dr. Alonso.
Disruptions to malaria services
The report found that only 58 percent of countries completed planned distributions of insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) in 2020, with most experiencing major delays.
By the end of 2020, 72 percent of all OICs planned for distribution had been distributed worldwide.
In 2020, of the 65 countries that responded, 37 countries reported partial interruptions (5 to 50 per cent) in malaria diagnosis and treatment services.
By 2021, 15 countries reported partial outages (5 to 50 percent) and 6 countries reported severe outages.
The global burden of malaria
This year’s World Malaria Report used a new methodology for estimating malaria deaths worldwide. This resulted in a higher proportion (7.8 percent) of deaths among children under the age of five than previously thought (4.8 percent).
“We have a better estimate of the real burden of malaria, and it now stands at 627,000 deaths in 2020,” said Dr Alonso.
© UNICEF / Josh Estee
The report states that From 2000 to 2020, the incidence of malaria (per 1000 population) decreased by 27 percent. with a general downward trend in mortality from malaria from 2000 to the present.
This led to a 49 percent decline in malaria deaths from 2000 to 2020. The report notes that In 2020, about 95 per cent of the world’s malaria cases were reported in the WHO African Region.and 96 percent of global malaria deaths in 2020.
Plateau in progress
The report shows that 1.7 billion cases and 10.6 million deaths were averted globally between 2000 and 2020. The majority of malaria cases (82 per cent) and deaths (95 per cent) averted in the past 20 years occurred in the WHO African Region.
However, even before the appearance COVID-19, global progress in malaria control has stabilized. ” “We are not on the road to success; we are increasingly moving away from the milestones in the WHO 2020 global malaria strategy,” said Dr Alonso.
A new country-driven approach to tackling malaria in high-burden countries began to gain traction when COVID-19 erupted.
According to an analysis carried out in 2020, the global malaria incidence fell by 40 percent, and the global death rate in 2020 by 42 percent.
Globally progress in malaria control remains uneven… The report indicates that many low-burden countries are making steady progress towards eliminating malaria.
Two countries – El Salvador and China – were certified malaria-free by WHO in 2021. However, most of the high burden countries have failed and are losing ground.
Significant and growing gaps
Global progress in malaria control over the past two decades has been achieved in large part through the massive scale-up and use of WHO-recommended malaria controls that prevent, detect and treat the disease.
However, the most recent data also show significant and sometimes widening gaps in access to life-saving tools for people at risk of malaria.
The report warns that the situation remains volatile, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The convergence of threats across the region poses an additional challenge to disease control efforts.
This includes Ebola fever outbreaks in DRC and Guinea, armed conflicts and floods. At the same time, the document reiterates that the pandemic is not over yet and the pace of economic recovery remains uncertain. Without immediate and accelerated action, the key objectives of the WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2030 will not be met and additional opportunities may be lost.
Meeting the global malaria targets
The objectives of the strategy include A 90 percent reduction in global malaria morbidity and mortality by 2030… The report reiterates that this will require new approaches and increased efforts, supported by new tools and better implementation of existing ones.
This includes greater emphasis on equitable and sustainable health systems and data-driven strategies.
The report also recommends the increased use of the RTS, S malaria vaccine recommended by WHO in October. “The vaccine is feasible, safe, has a public health impact and is cost effective,” said Dr. Alonso.
“As we speak, GAVI is discussing the possibility of investing in this malaria vaccine,” he added.
The analysis also highlighted the importance of increasing investment. “Funding has not changed,” warned Dr. Alonso, “we are about 50 percent of what we think should be for 2020.”
The report states that a total of US $ 3.3 billion was invested in malaria control and elimination in 2020. That’s against the $ 6.8 billion target that was aimed at meeting the global malaria targets.
The report notes that by 2030, annual investments should more than triple – to $ 10.3 billion per year.