Declining rates of malaria infection and deaths since 2010 are leveling off, with the highest burden countries seeing increased case numbers, and dropping donor funding, according to the 2018 global report on Malaria from the World Health Organization. At the same time, increased parasite resistance to antimalarial medicines in Southeast Asia, and widespread mosquito resistance to the insecticide used in treated nets, herald potential, but controllable further challenges, according to the report.
While the estimated 219 million malaria cases of 2017 represent a drop of 20 million cases since 2010, the report also shows an increase since 2016 of about 2 million cases, across countries already experiencing the highest burdens of the disease. Africa continues to be home to the highest rates of the disease, as well as to countries with increasing rates, while Southeast Asia and the eastern Mediterranean are seeing more steeply dropping numbers. And while deaths have declined since 2010 as well, from 607,000 then to 435,000 in 2017, the most vulnerable continue to bear the brunt of the disease, and of inefficient efforts to combat it, the report says. Children under five accounted for 61 percent of malaria deaths last year — a rate that meant a child died every two minutes from the treatable disease in 2017, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus notes in the report’s foreword.
Still, the report says, the “elimination net is widening,” with the number of countries reporting fewer than 10,000 cases up by two — from 44 countries in 2016, to 46 in 2017, and 21 countries showing the potential to eliminate the disease in 2020. The report follows the release earlier this year, of a strategy to target the highest burden countries with best practices and increased funding.