Last year, the World Health Organization reported that the rate at which people are dying from malaria has fallen by almost half since the beginning of this century.
One reason for this substantial improvement is the increased availability of insecticide-treated bed nets. In 2013 – the most recent year for which we have statistics – almost half of all people at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa had access to an insecticide-treated net, up from just 3 per cent in 2004.
It is also because of massively improved access to accurate malaria diagnostics and effective treatment. In 2013, the number of rapid diagnostic tests procured globally increased to 319 million, up from 46 million in 2008. The same year, 392 million courses of artemisinin-based combination therapies – a key intervention to treat malaria – were procured, up from 11 million in 2005.
As a result, fewer people are becoming infected with malaria, and more people are getting the medicines they need. This tremendous achievement is clear proof that we can win the global fight against malaria. We have the tools and the know-how. But, we still need to invest in getting these tools to a lot more people if we are to further reduce the number of people becoming ill with malaria, and further cut the number of people who die each year.
We urgently need to get insecticide-treated nets to all people at risk in sub-Saharan Africa – not just half of them. We must address the recent decline in indoor residual spraying, another key intervention for reducing new infections. And we have to do more to for the millions of people who cannot get tested and treated for malaria. We must also move more decisively to tackle insecticide and drug resistance.
This means investing more in tried and tested approaches to malaria prevention and treatment, strengthening health systems in the world’s poorest countries, and intensifying efforts to develop new tools and approaches.
On World Malaria Day 2015, I call on the international community to “invest in the future: defeat malaria”. We have a real opportunity to defeat this terrible disease. Let’s not waste it.