A new report published by The Lancet, an international weekly general medical journal, has shown that malaria epidemic can be eradicated globally by year 2050 if the right tools, strategies and sufficient funding are deployed.
The study, tagged 'The Lancet Commission on Malaria Eradication' was authored by 41 world's leading malariologists, biomedical scientists, economists, and health policy experts in the United States.
The study says: "This seminal report synthesises existing evidence with new epidemiological and financial analyses to demonstrate that - with the right tools, strategies, and sufficient funding - eradication of the disease is possible within a generation. This report is the first peer reviewed, academic document of its kind.
"For too long, malaria eradication has been a distant dream, but now we have evidence that it can, and should be eradicated by 2050," said the Co-chair of The Lancet Commission on Malaria Eradication and Director of the Global Health Group at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Sir Richard Feachem.
"This report shows that eradication is possible within a generation. But to achieve this common vision, we simply cannot continue with a business as usual approach. The world is at a tipping point, and we must instead challenge ourselves with ambitious targets and commit to the bold action needed to meet them," he said.
Recent decades have seen unprecedented progress made against malaria, prompting discussions about the feasibility of eradicating the disease altogether.
Earlier figures show that since 2000, global malaria incidence and death rates declined by 36 and 60 per cent respectively, due to strong leadership, country-driven ambition, innovative new tools and strategies, and increased investments peaking at US$4.3 billion in 2016. Today, more than half of the world's countries are malaria-free.
However, this progress hangs in the balance. Despite global efforts, there are over 200 million cases of malaria reported around the world each year, claiming the lives of nearly half a million individuals.
The achievements of the past two decades are threatened by recent plateaus in global funding, together with a rise of malaria cases in 55 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America and increasing concern about parasite and vector resistance to currently available drugs and insecticides.
Additionally, malaria continues to perpetuate cycles of inequity, with 29 countries accounting for the large majority of new cases and 85 percent of global deaths reported in 2017.
All but two (Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands) of these countries are located in Africa. Just two countries, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, account for 36 per cent of global cases alone.
The Lancet report, a joint endeavor between The Lancet and University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), was convened in 2017 to consider the feasibility, affordability, and merit of malaria eradication, inform global opinion, and identify priority actions for the achievement of eradication.
The report says, "We used new modelling to estimate plausible scenarios for the distribution and intensity of malaria in 2030 and 2050. Analyses indicate that socioeconomic and environmental trends, together with improved coverage of current malaria interventions, will create a world in 2050 with malaria persisting in pockets of low-level transmission across equatorial Africa.
"Rather than continue efforts to gradually reduce malaria in most countries, hold the constant threat of resurgence at bay, and fight an ongoing and increasingly difficult struggle against drug and insecticide resistance, we note the malaria community can instead choose to commit to a time-bound eradication goal that will bring purpose, urgency, and dedication. The objective of these efforts is to convert the modelled future of persisting malaria into an engineered future of a world free of malaria in 2050."