WHO Calls For Increased Investment To Eradicate Malaria

FILE PHOTO: The World Health Organization logo is pictured at the entrance of the WHO building, in Geneva, Switzerland, December 20, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The World Health Organisation has called on countries to redouble commitments and bolster investments in malaria prevention and control.

The WHO said 96 per cent of the 619,000 malaria deaths recorded in 2021 were recorded in Africa.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, in her message to commemorate the World Malaria Day said malaria is six to 20 times more likely to spread in mosquito-prone environments than the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.

World Malaria Day is an international observance commemorated every year on 25 April and recognises global efforts to control malaria. The theme for this year is ‘Time to deliver zero malaria: invest, innovate, implement.’

Dr Moeti said with concerted efforts, more than 1.6 billion malaria cases and 11 million malaria deaths were averted in the WHO African Region from 2000 to 2021.

She said at least 28 countries in Africa have expressed interest in introducing the first malaria RTS,S vaccine recommended by WHO to prevent malaria.

“Overall, in terms of reduction in malaria incidence, eight countries are on track to meet the 2025 Global Technical Strategy target (Cabo Verde, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Rwanda, South Africa, and Zimbabwe). But 15 countries achieved insufficient reduction while 20 have witnessed stagnation or an increase in cases. Ten countries saw increases in malaria deaths. The pace of progress must be accelerated if we want to achieve the set targets for 2025 and 2030.

“While congratulating our Member States and development partners for achievements over the last year, we are greatly concerned that malaria deaths remain unacceptably high, and cases have continued to increase since 2015. The WHO African Region alone accounted, in 2021, for an estimated 234 million malaria cases and 593,000 deaths, thus bearing the heaviest burden of over 95 per cent of cases and 96 per cent of deaths globally.

“Our Region, therefore, continues to be hardest hit by this deadly disease partly because too many people do not have access to preventive and curative interventions. Nearly 30 per cent of the population in most African countries cannot access essential health services, and most people face unacceptably high expenditures on health care. Significant inequities affect the most vulnerable, young children and women, whereas about 80 per cent of malaria cases and deaths occur in children under five,’ she said.

To reverse these trends and accelerate progress, she said there is a need to rethink and revitalise strategies by investing, innovating, and implementing smartly.

“On investments, we are responsible for increasing funding for malaria interventions through primary health care approaches so that malaria services are accessed by the most vulnerable populations wherever they are. In 2021, endemic countries and partners mobilized only 50 per cent of the estimated $ 7.3 billion required globally to stay on track to defeat malaria. We, therefore, call on our Member States to keep malaria high on their agendas as they allocate resources to health.

“On innovation, there is a great need to increase the number and efficacy of control tools and strategies so that interventions can have a greater impact. In this light, WHO recently prequalified new dual active ingredient insecticide-treated nets and several insecticides for indoor residual spraying. The new RTS,S vaccine deployment has been extended beyond the three initial countries and several other innovative products are in the pipeline.

“New tools and strategies are needed to address the threats of drug resistance, insecticide resistance, and new invasive vectors compromising gains in vector control,” she said.

Also, the WHO Country representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Mulombo called for increased funding for malaria intervention through the primary healthcare system.

“It’s not just about improving the budget, it’s about making sure the budget is released and when the budget is released, it is making sure that 80 per cent of it goes to the primary care level where 80 per cent of the communities get first contact with health care services,” he said.


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