Citing Progress, WHO Calls for Expanded Funding of Malaria Programs

While significant progress has been made in delivering life-saving mosquito nets and treatments to at-risk individuals in the developing world, malaria programs need to be expanded in order to meet the Millennium Development Goals, a new report from the World Health Organization finds.

According to World Malaria Report 2009 (78 pages, PDF), the increase in international funding commitments — from $730 million in 2006 to $1.7 billion in 2009 — has allowed a dramatic scale-up of malaria control interventions in several countries. However, the amount available for such interventions falls short of the $5 billion a year needed to ensure high coverage and maximal impact worldwide.

Since 2006, the use of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT) in some parts of the world has increased, though it remains low in most African countries, where fewer than 15 percent of children with malarial fever receive such therapies. At the same time, the number of African households that own at least one insecticide-treated net (ITN) has increased, and more children under the age of five used an ITN this year than in previous years. Moreover, in more than a third of the 108 countries where malaria is endemic — nine in Africa and twenty-nine outside the continent — the number of malaria cases was reduced by more than 50 percent between 2000 and 2008.

Indeed, where scale-up of proven interventions has occurred and surveillance systems are functioning, remarkable progress has been documented. In countries and areas that have achieved high coverage with bed nets and treatment programs such as Eritrea, Rwanda, Zambia, and Zanzibar, recorded cases and deaths due to malaria have fallen by 50 percent, meeting the target set by the World Health Assembly for 2010.

While the report found that more attention — and funding — needs to be given to large countries that account for most cases and deaths, WHO director-general Margaret Chan said the findings were cause for optimism. "While much remains to be done, the data here clearly suggest that the tremendous increase in funding for malaria control is resulting in the rapid scale-up of today's control tools," said Chan. "This, in turn, is having a profound effect on health — especially the health of children in sub-Saharan Africa. In a nutshell, development aid for health is working."

"Malaria Progress Shows Development Aid for Health Works." World Health Organization Press Release 12/15/2009.