Malaria deaths have declined since 2000, WHO finds

Fewer people have died of malaria or become infected since 2000, the head of the World Health Organization says, with the aim of eliminating the mosquito-borne illness.

In Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leona, Ebola outbreak and collapse of health systems threaten malaria gains

Fewer people died of malaria or became infected since 2000, the head of the World Health Organization says, with the aim of eliminating the mosquito-borne illness.

Malaria death rates decreased by 47 per cent between 2000 and 2013 globally, and by 54 per cent in Africa, the United Nations public health agency said in its World Malaria Report released Tuesday in Geneva.

The agency estimates that worldwide, 670 million fewer cases and 4.3 million fewer deaths occurred between 2001 and 2013 than would have occurred if the incidence and mortality rates remained at levels from 2000.

WHO attributes the progress to:

  • Increased access to insecticide-treated bed nets.
  • Better access to accurate malaria diagnostic tests.
  • Effective treatments such as artemisinin-based combination therapies.

But millions of people still lack access to diagnostic testing and treatment, and there has been slow progress in delivering preventive treatments to pregnant women and children under five years of age, WHO said.

Last year, the preventable and treatable illness killed an estimated 584,000 people worldwide, including 437,000 African children before their fifth birthday.

"Recent progress in reducing the human suffering caused by malaria has shown us that, with adequate investments and the right mix of strategies, we can indeed make remarkable strikes against this complicated enemy," Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO’s director general, said in a foreword to the report.

"We should act with urgency and resolve, and remain focused on our shared goal: to create a world in which no one dies of malaria, a world entirely clear of this scourge."

In Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leona, the Ebola outbreak and collapse of health systems have threatened to reverse recent gains in fighting malaria, WHO said. It gave new recommendations on temporary measures to control malaria during the Ebola outbreak, such as provide malaria therapy to all fever patients, even when they haven’t been tested for malaria.

The available funding, however, is far less than what’s needed to protect everyone at risk, Chan said, pointing to the estimated 278 million people in Africa who live in households without an insecticide-treated bed net.