(23 April; London, UK ) On 25 April, the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership and partners around the globe will commemorate World Malaria Day (WMD), celebrating successes seen against the preventable and curable disease in recent years and re-focusing attention on overcoming remaining biological and financial challenges. World Malaria Day is recognized annually around the world on 25 April.
With events planned around the world, the RBM Secretariat will celebrate World Malaria Day through the following:
- WMD Dinner Celebration, New Delhi, India (23 April): RBM will co-host with the Asia-Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA) and the Empower School of Health a reception and dinner to celebrate successes made against malaria and highlight the role of the private sector and political will to overcome remaining challenges, particularly in the Asia-Pacific.
- WMD Diplomatic Lunch, United Nations headquarters, Geneva (25 April): As in years past, RBM will gather the diplomatic community from the United Nations in Geneva, including Permanent Representatives and development experts, at a lunch discussion to commemorate WMD. Confirmed speakers include the Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in Geneva of the UK, Zambia and Vietnam.
- Racing Against Malaria (RAM) 2 (14-25 April, Southern Africa): Between 14-25 April, RBM will organize the Racing Against Malaria (RAM) 2 car rally that will pass through 8 countries in the South Africa Development Community (SADC) to promote malaria control and elimination efforts in the region. Racing from Lilongwe, Malawi to Odnjiva, Angola, the initiative will bring together all malaria control program teams from the region, as well as their key partners and stakeholders. At various stops in cross-border districts, partners will stress the importance of testing for, treating and tracking malaria cases in cross-border initiatives, aimed at malaria elimination.
Why: In recent years, there has been tremendous progress against malaria. According to the latest numbers published in the World Health Organization’s 2013 World Malaria Report, since 2000 malaria death rates have decreased by approximately 42% globally and 49% in Africa alone – where 90% of all malaria-related deaths still occur – contributing to a 20% reduction in global child mortality and helping drive progress against the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4. Collective efforts have helped avert an estimated 3.3 million deaths between 2001 and 2012 – 69% of which were in the 10 countries with the highest malaria burden in 2000 – and more than half of the 103 countries that had ongoing malaria transmission in 2000 are meeting the MDG of reversing malaria incidence by 2015.
But still, success is partial and fragile. Almost half of the world’s population remains at risk from malaria. Despite unprecedented advances in prevention, diagnostics and treatment, malaria continues to cause approximately 207 million cases of infection around the world each year, killing an estimated 627,000 people. Around the world, a child still dies from malaria every minute. Successes must be replicated across all regions affected by malaria, and they need to be sustained and expanded to prevent malaria from coming back in areas that have reached elimination.
Malaria disproportionately affects the poor, who suffer more from the consequences of the disease. 58% of malaria deaths occur in the poorest 20% of the world’s population. Children, pregnant women, people living in emergency situations and people living with HIV are particularly vulnerable. Malaria perpetuates the vicious cycle of poverty and places an enormous burden on African economies, resulting in massive losses to economic growth, with an estimated cost of US$ 12 billion each year in lost productivity in Africa alone. Further, in some countries with a very heavy malaria burden, the disease may account for as much as 40% of public health expenditure, 30-50% of inpatient admissions and up to 60% of outpatient visits.
While international and domestic financing for malaria peaked at US $2.5 billion in 2012, this amounts to less than half of the US $5.1 billion RBM estimates is needed annually through 2020 to achieve universal coverage of malaria control interventions.
Addressing malaria will make a critical contribution to progress in achieving the MDGs and will allow communities to thrive for generations to come. We know that when we invest in malaria, the return is high and the cost is low. When we invest in malaria, we invest in development.
Malaria in the Asia-Pacific: With approximately 28 million cases of malaria infection and 45,000 associated deaths each year, the Asia-Pacific carries the second highest burden of malaria outside of Africa. While the Western-Pacific has seen a reduction in malaria mortality by an estimated 42% since 2000, the region’s 22 malaria-endemic countries are home to an estimated 2.1 billion people at risk of infection. India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Myanmar and Papua New Guinea bear the largest burden of the disease, accounting for 89% of all malaria cases in the region.
Resistance to the most effective course of treatment for malaria – Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs) –has been confirmed in four countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-region of the Asia-Pacific: Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam. The threat of this resistance on both regional and global progress against malaria is very real, as its spread could potentially leave the nearly 3 billion people around the world at risk of infection with no effective course of treatment. This part of the world is the historical epicenter for the emergence of drug-resistant malaria parasites, with many front-line antimalarial having been lost to resistance originating in the region over the past several decades. The large majority of malaria-endemic countries have no alternatives if these drugs begin to fail.
Thanks to a surge in research, malaria and the mechanisms of drug resistance are understood better than ever, and vigilance is at an all-time high. But the window for action to stop the emergence of artemisinin resistance is small. Scientists are working swiftly to develop the next generation of new antimalarial drugs and tools, but in the meantime, it will be critical to galvanize political action at the highest level and mobilize countries to take essential first steps to contain the problem and ensure a coordinated effort in fighting this disease