So what is actually being done about malaria? I hear you ask.
Well, quite a lot actually. Especially as winning the fight against malaria is crucial to achieving six of the eight Millennium Development Goals. Since 1998, efforts to defeat malaria, which is both preventable and treatable, have been coordinated by the Roll Back Malaria partnership (RBM) in Geneva. Comprising malaria-endemic countries, their bilateral and multilateral development partners, the private sector, non-governmental and community-based organisations, research and academic institutions and foundations, RBM exemplifies the cross-sectoral collaboration needed to defeat malaria. Its structures guide and facilitate every step in effective global malaria control.
After the first World Malaria Day in April 2008 and Ban Ki-Moon’s prioritising of malaria control as a global public health issue, world leaders and the global malaria community launched the ambitious Global Malaria Action Plan – GMAP - at the September 2008 MDG Malaria Summit in New York.
The GMAP, a global framework for action around which partners can coordinate their efforts, presents: (i) a comprehensive overview of the global malaria landscape ; (ii) an evidence-based approach to deliver effective prevention and treatment to all people at risk ; and (iii) an estimate of the annual funding needs to achieve the goals of the RBM Partnership for 2010, 2015 and beyond.
The GMAP outlines RBM's vision for a substantial and sustained reduction in the burden of malaria in the near and mid-term, and the eventual global eradication of malaria in the long term, when new tools, such as a vaccine, make eradication possible.
Anyway, the targets of the GMAP are to:
Achieve universal coverage (of anti-malarials such as insecticide-treated bednets etc.);
Reduce global malaria cases from 2000 levels by 50% in 2010 and by 75% in 2015;
Reduce global malaria deaths from 2000 levels by 50% in 2010 and to near zero preventable deaths in 2015;
Eliminate malaria in 8-10 countries by 2015 and afterwards in all countries in the pre-elimination phase today; and
In the long term, eradicate malaria world-wide by reducing the global incidence to zero through progressive elimination in countries.
To achieve these targets, the GMAP outlines a three-part global strategy:
control malaria to reduce the current burden and sustain control as long as necessary;
eliminate malaria over time country by country; and
research new tools and approaches to support global control and elimination efforts.
Barriers to the implementation of GMAP are resource gaps : to scale up interventions; produce and deliver nets and treatments; and develop endemic countries' capacity to control malaria. Promotion of new initiatives and solutions and assessment of their impact by monitoring malaria cases is also crucial.
The GMAP is the universal roadmap to ensure nationwide malaria control and elimination.
In April 2009 an exciting initiative, the Affordable Medicine Facility for malaria, the AMFm, was launched in Oslo. One of the main building blocks of GMAP, the AMFm will put affordable life-saving malaria drugs within reach of millions of people, especially children, in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Industry on the African continent, where malaria costs businesses and economies $12 billion annually in lost productivity and accounts for almost 20% of all child deaths, is also getting its act together and playing a crucial role in malaria control.
The report Business Investing in Malaria Control: Economic Returns and a Healthy Workforce for Africa – authored and published by RBM and launched at the World Economic Forum Africa in Cape Town on May 5th, 2011 – examined evidence from case studies in Zambia, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana and Mozambique. It revealed that the benefits to companies of implementing effective malaria control programs for their workers are significant.
In Zambia, for example, combined data from Zambia Sugar, Mopani Copper Mines and Konkola Copper Mines showed that spending an average of just $34 per employee per year over the period from 2000-2009 on malaria control, resulted in a 94% drop in malaria related lost work days per year. The economic return for these companies was very significant. Investing in malaria control brought these companies an internal rate of return (IRR) of 28% annually (IRR is a rate to measure and compare the profitability of investments).
So, the future of the malaria landscape looks a lot brighter than it did 10 years ago and it's all to play for!
Sources: Roll Back Malaria partnership, WHO, Geneva