The New Times (Kigali)

20 December 2012

Rwanda: New Report Signals Slow Pace in the Fight Against Malaria

Photo: Tami Hultman/AllAfrica
Child receiving treatment for malaria (file photo).

THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of a global slowdown in the fight against malaria.

According to the World Malaria Report 2012, in the past decade, a concerted effort by endemic countries, donors and global malaria partners led to the strengthening of malaria control around the world.

"However, after a rapid expansion between 2004 and 2009, global funding for malaria prevention and control levelled off between 2010 and 2012, and progress in the delivery of some life-saving commodities has slowed," the report released on Monday says.

The report said an example was a drop in the number of long-lasting insecticide nets (LLINs) delivered to endemic countries in sub-Saharan Africa from a peak of 145 million in 2010 to an estimated 66 million in 2012.

"This means that many households will be unable to replace existing bed nets when required, exposing more people to the potentially deadly disease," it said.

As Rwanda works towards being a malaria-free country, at least 13 districts are on track to eliminate malaria, according to Dr Corine Karema, head of Malaria Division in the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC).

In East Africa, Rwanda is the only country which has reduced the cases by 75 per cent, according to the report.

The 13 districts have a morbidity rate of less than 5 percent.

The WHO release said the expansion of indoor residual spraying programmes also levelled off, with coverage levels in the WHO African Region staying at 11% of the population at risk of 77 million people between 2010 and 2011.

The scaling up of interventions has in Rwanda made remarkable reductions in morbidity by 87 percent, from 1.6 million malaria cases in 2005 to 212,200 cases in 2011, and a reduced mortality by 76 percent from 1,582 deaths in 2005 to 380 last year.

"During the past eight years, scaled-up malaria control helped us avert over a million deaths. We must maintain this momentum and do our utmost to prevent resurgences," the release quoted Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia and Chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, as saying during an official launch event for the report in Monrovia, Liberia.

It stated that 50 countries around the world were on track to reducing their malaria case incidence rates by 75% by 2015, in line with World Health Assembly and Roll Back Malaria targets.

However, these 50 countries only represented three percent or seven million of the malaria cases that were estimated to have occurred in 2000, the benchmark against which progress was measured.

"Global targets for reducing the malaria burden will not be reached unless progress is accelerated in the highest burden countries," It cited Dr Robert Newman, Director of WHO Global Malaria Programme in Geneva as saying.

"These countries are in a precarious situation and most of them need urgent financial assistance to procure and distribute life-saving commodities," the release said.

It said the malaria burden is concentrated in 14 endemic countries, which account for an estimated 80% of malaria deaths.

According to the release, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the most affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa, while India is the most affected country in South East Asia.

The release stated that Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership said: "The multi-pronged strategy to fight malaria, outlined in the Global Malaria Action Plan, is working. However, in order to prevent a resurgence of malaria in some countries, we urgently need fresh ideas on new financing mechanisms that will reap greater resources for malaria.

It said the World Malaria Report 2012 indicates that international funding for malaria appears to have reached a plateau well below the level required to reach the health-related Millennium Development Goals and other internationally-agreed global malaria targets.

The release said an estimated US$ 5.1 billion was needed every year between 2011 and 2020 to achieve universal access to malaria interventions in the 99 countries with on-going malaria transmission.

"While many countries have increased domestic financing for malaria control, the total available global funding remained at 2.3 billion in 2011 - less than half of what is needed.

"This means that millions of people living in highly endemic areas continue to lack access to effective malaria prevention, diagnostic testing, and treatment," it said.

The release said efforts to prevent the emergence and spread of parasite resistance to anti-malarial medicines and mosquito resistance to insecticides were also constrained by inadequate funding.

The World Malaria Report 2012 summarises information received from 99 countries with on-going transmission and other sources, and updates the analyses presented in the 2011 report. Malaria is an entirely preventable and treatable vector-borne disease.

In 2010, an estimated 219 million cases occurred globally, while the disease killed about 660, 000 people, mostly children under five years of age.

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