It’s no understatement to say that historical, unprecedented progress has been made in the fight against malaria in the last 15 years. The situation we faced in the mid-1990s was out of control. More than a million people were losing their lives to the disease each year and we had no effective tools to combat it.

Today the picture is very different. Investment has been stepped up to more than US$2.5 billion a year. It’s made a huge impact, averting an estimated 6.2 million deaths with an effective combination of vector control, improved diagnostics and treatment. 

 

Tipping Point

 

But the fight is far from over. There are still an astonishing 214 million cases of malaria each year and more than 400,000 deaths as result.

Consequently, we find ourselves at the tipping point. We either accelerate or we run the risk of becoming complacent. Up to now, the gains have been relatively easy, but the picture is becoming more complex. In addition to the challenges of reaching populations at risk of malaria, drug and insecticide resistance threaten to make the job even harder.

Malaria is a highly heterogeneous disease, and one approach will not fit all situations. Last May, the World Health Assembly approved a Global Technical Strategy for Malaria, which gives us a comprehensive framework that can be translated into targeted action on a regional and country level.

We know we can deliver the results given the right investment. History has shown that. We need continued investment and commitment to deliver programmes on the ground. At the same time, we need to broaden our intelligence, develop alternative drugs and insecticides, explore new approaches to vector control and continue the search for a successful malaria vaccine. In many respects, the hardest task is yet to come.