Yesterday, the World Health Organization released the 2010 World Malaria report. Overall, it’s surprisingly good news. Malaria has been a persistent, awful threat to human health, in particular to pregnant women. We’re finally showing some progress in slowing it down.
The report highlights substantial reductions in malaria incidence and mortality:
“In Africa, a total of 11 countries showed a greater than 50% reduction in either confirmed malaria cases or malaria admissions and deaths over the past decade. A decrease of more than 50% in the number of confirmed cases of malaria was also found in 32 of the 56 malaria-endemic countries outside Africa during this same time period, while downward trends of 25%–50% were seen in eight additional countries.”
That’s big news.
Turkmenistan was certified malaria-free in 2009. I’m not all that impressed – malaria never broke the low double-digits in Turkmenistan, and certification was mostly about better record-keeping. Morocco, however, was also certified malaria-free last year, and that’s bigger news.
Possibly related to the malaria reductions: financial commitment to battling malaria was at its highest ever in 2009, at $1.5 billion. 2009 also saw highest-ever rates of insecticide treated bednet ownership, and better provision of anti-malarial drugs.
Now the bad news: malaria treatment is going to have to change. It used to be safe to assume that everyone in a malaria-prevalent country with a fever had malaria, and should receive malaria treatment automatically. With the increase in resistance to anti-malarial drugs, that’s no longer an option. The WHO now recommends that “all suspected cases of malaria be confirmed by a diagnostic test before antimalarial drugs are administered.” That is going to require a concerted push to give first line health care providers to effective diagnostic testing for malaria.