Cycle of malaria
Today, 3.3 billion people – half the world's population – are at risk of malaria, a disease transmitted by mosquitoes. In sub-Saharan
Africa, insecticide-treaded mosquito nets have proven to be one of the most effective ways to fight the epidemic. By distributing these nets to families, providing indoor residual spraying, and delivering over 142 million malaria drug treatments throughout the world, we are on track to eliminate malaria as a public health problem in most affected countries.
SEATTLE, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Nearly a third of all countries affected by malaria are on course to eliminate the mosquito-borne disease over the next 10 years, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday.
In a progress report published by the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) partnership at the start of an international Malaria Forum conference in
, the United Nations health body said "remarkable progress" had been made. Seattle
Up to a third of the 108 countries and territories across the world where malaria is endemic are moving towards being able to wipe out the disease within their borders, it said.
"Better diagnostic testing and surveillance has provided a clearer picture of where we are on the ground -- and has shown that there are countries eliminating malaria in all endemic regions of the world," Robert Newman, director of the WHO's Global Malaria Programme, told the conference.
Almost half the world's population -- or 3.3 billion people -- are at risk of malaria and the parasitic disease killed 781,000 people in 2009, according to the latest data. Most of its victims are in
Malaria elimination -- halting the disease's transmission and reducing infections to zero within a defined area -- was first attempted on a large scale during the Global Malaria Eradication Programme from 1955 to 1972.
During that time, 20 countries were certified by WHO as malaria-free. But that number dropped to just four countries during the following 30 years when efforts to control the spread of the disease lapsed. "The world sort of gave up on malaria, and we lost ground," said Newman.
RBM said in a report in September that a rapid scale-up of a range of malaria control measures -- such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor spraying, faster and more accurate diagnosis and access to anti-malaria drugs -- has saved an estimated 1.1 million lives in
Africa over the past 10 years.
International funding for the fight against malaria has also risen substantially in recent years, reaching about $1.5 billion in 2010, up from $100 million in 2003.
David Brandling-Bennett, deputy director for malaria at the Gates Foundation, which was hosting the
conference, said it was vital for global health authorities, donors and national governments not to take their eye off the ball. Seattle
"The reality is that malaria does fight back ... and we don't want to lose the momentum from these gains," he said.
The Malaria Forum is hosted and funded by the Gates Foundation, a $34 billion fund run by the billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The foundation is devoted largely to health projects in poor countries.
In 2007, Gates and his wife Melinda urged the international community to fight for the global eradication of malaria, saying that to aspire to anything less would be "timid".