April 25, 2016 is World Malaria Day, a time to focus on past progress and future challenges.
First the good news:
Euro Region, 1995: 95,000 malaria cases; 2015: Zero!
Other countries reducing malaria transmission to zero in 2015: Argentina, Costa Rica, Iraq, Morocco, Oman, Paraguay, Sri Lanka and United Arab Emirates.
Compared to 2000, malaria mortality has decreased 60% and 71% for children under 5 years. This has primarily been achieved by prevention: insecticide-treated bed-nets (IBN) & indoor residual spraying. Better access to treatment has reduced mortality among those infected. The extensive use of IBN is expanding zones within countries that have low or zero rates of transmission.
The challenge ahead: In 2015, 214 million new cases of the disease were reported in 95 countries and more than 400 000 people died of malaria.
Increase in political will to fund prevention and treatment programs has achieved much progress to date. A sustained political will is essential for continued progress. Malaria, once prevalent in the US, was systematically reduced over a 60 year period from the 1880s to the final elimination in 1945. Increased funding for prevention reduced malaria transmission to a few recalcitrant pockets that were small enough to be eradicated by the use of insecticides in 1945. Hopefully, malaria transmission world-wide is on a similar path. With the tools we have and new tools underdevelopment, we need the political will to complete the task.