WHO welcomes "dramatic" fall in global malaria cases

WHO welcomes "dramatic" fall in global malaria cases
By Bill Smith
17 September 2015

London (dpa) - The World Health Organization on Thursday reported a "dramatic downward trend" in global infections and mortality rates from malaria over the past 15 years.

WHO data showed a fall of about 60 per cent, or 6.2 million, in the number of deaths from malaria since 2000, with the lives of some 5.9 million children under the age of five saved. "Global malaria control is one of the great public health success stories of the past 15 years," said Dr Margaret Chan, the WHO's director general. "It's a sign that our strategies are on target, and that we can beat this ancient killer, which still claims hundreds of thousands of lives, mostly children, each year," Chan said.

A growing number of nations are close to eliminating malaria, with the fastest decreases in reported cases seen in central and east Asia, WHO said. Thirteen countries reported no cases last year and six others reported less than 10 cases, it said.

But WHO warned that "despite tremendous progress, malaria remains an acute public health problem in many regions." "In 2015 alone, there were an estimated 214 million new cases of malaria, and approximately 438,000 people died of this preventable and treatable disease," it said.

An estimated 3.2 billion people, or nearly half of the world's population, remain at risk of malaria. Fifteen countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, accounted for 80 per cent of cases and 78 per cent of deaths from malaria reported this year, the WHO said.

Children under 5 still account for more than two-thirds of malaria-related deaths, the organization said. "Malaria kills mostly young children, especially those living in the poorest and most remote places," said Anthony Lake, the head of UNICEF, the UN children's agency. "So the best way to celebrate global progress in the fight against it is to recommit ourselves to reaching and treating them," Lake said.

In a study published by Nature magazine, researchers from Oxford University said use of mosquito nets was the biggest factor in preventing malaria infections in Africa, responsible for about two-thirds of the lives saved.

Source: dpa