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Roll Back Malaria Partnership calls for new funding and greater coordination in endemic countries to stop Malaria related deaths

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25 April 2014, Geneva; According to the last World Malaria Report the World Health Organization published in December 2013, at least 627,000 people have died of malaria infections in 2012, 90% of which occurred in Africa alone. Every minute a child dies from Malaria in Africa. Malaria continues to account for more than 30% of public healthcare spending in the most affected endemic countries. Malaria remains a health risk for more than half of the world population in 2014.

Yet significant progress has been made over the past decade: 3.3 million lives were saved between 2001 and 2012; malaria-related infant mortality rates decreased by 54% in Africa over the same period. Scaled-up efforts over the last few years led to significant progress in numerous countries. In Madagascar, for instance, mortality in children under the age of 5 years dropped by 23% between 2003 and 2009; Tanzania distributed some 20 million nets between 2007 and 2010; Malawi has demonstrated a substantial decline in malaria prevalence among children from 61 to 20% between 2001 and 2009.

These results, however, could be put at risk by declining resources for malaria control in the coming years. The history of the fight against malaria has taught us that a breakdown in funding systematically results in an instant increase in the number of malaria cases. Yet the benefits achieved exceed by far the small investments incurred: it is possible today to purchase inexpensive mosquito nets for a whole family and to buy effective medicines for less than one dollar in numerous African countries.

Available international development assistance and domestic financing account for less than half of the funding needed to effectively combat malaria in the world. "Filling the global malaria funding gap of US $2.6 billion is a must. More than ever before this requires a concerted effort of all countries and actors engaged in malaria control," said Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. “An integrated and coordinated approach as well as strong health care systems are prerequisites for effective and sustainable malaria control,” she added.

Anti-malarial interventions, which are considered among the most cost-effective, do not only save lives but also accelerate progress in other health and development areas. They reduce school absenteeism, help fight poverty, and improve maternal and child health. New data suggests that for every US dollar invested in the fight against malaria in Africa yields more than US dollar 40 in GDP in return.

“Healthy communities create more vibrant societies that allow people and national economies to thrive. The fight against malaria is a great example. Ever since the Millennium Development Goals were launched, we have witnessed that malaria control is an effective investment that saves lives and speeds up economic progress,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at a meeting of the European Union Africa Summit on 4 April 2014. In Rwanda, for example, World Bank figures show that only 15% increase in health expenditures have resulted in a reduction in malaria incidence of more than 50% since 2006, and in a decline in maternal mortality. This progress also contributed to economic development which in turn led to an increase of GDP of almost US dollar 5.5 billion over the course of the last decade.

The fight against malaria is unquestionably a lever for the economic development of an entire continent. The private sector has an eminently important role to play in this endeavour. Beyond the moral imperative of taking action, corporate investments into the health of employees are essential for workforce protection and contribute to profitability. The impact of private sector involvement creates significant benefit for entire communities.

"Every malaria-related death is unacceptable because today we have all the available means at our disposal to put an end to malaria: this is the feasible goal the international community and stakeholders of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership have set for themselves. We must nurture investments, innovation and political will in order to secure a long-term success and prevent malaria resurgence," concluded Nafo-Traoré.

Some basic facts on malaria:

  • Malaria is caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected Anopheles mosquito vectors. Of the five parasite species that cause malaria in human, Plasmodium falciparum is the most deadly.
  • Access to diagnostic testing and treatment should be seen not only as a component of malaria control but as a fundamental right of all populations at risk.
  • Long-lasting insecticidal bed nets provide protection against mosquito bites.
  • Artemisinin-based combination therapies remain highly effective, even though parasite resistance to this medical treatment has been observed in South-East Asia.

Media Contact Pru Smith Coordinator Communications and Advocacy, RBM smithp@who.int +41 79 477 1744

About the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM)

The Roll Back malaria Partnership was founded by UNICEF, WHO, UNDP and the World Bank in 1998 as a global framework to coordinate global action against malaria. Today, RBM is a global public-private partnership made up of more than 500 organizations across sectors that provides a neutral platform for consensus-building, developing solutions to challenges in the implementation of malaria control interventions and strategies, promotes high-level political commitment to keep malaria at the top of the global agenda, and monitors progress towards universal goals.