The latest World Health Organisation (WHO) report has shown a global slowdown in the fight against malaria eradication, which it says can reverse recent gains in the fight against the disease.
Malaria is one of the world's leading infectious killer diseases and WHO, in a press release on the report in Accra, Ghana on Tuesday, notes that "...after a rapid expansion between 2004 and 2009, global funding for malaria prevention and control leveled off between 2010 and 2012, and progress in the delivery of some life-saving commodities has slowed".
During the past decade, the organisation says a concerted effort by endemic countries, donors and global malaria partners led to the strengthening of malaria control around the world.
"The scale-up of malaria prevention and control interventions had the greatest impact in countries with high malaria transmission; 58% of the 1.1 million lives saved during this period were in the 10 highest burden countries," reads the report.
The report for example cites a drop in the number of long-lasting insecticidal 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," the report indicates.
In addition, it says 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.
"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," Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia and Chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance said during an official launch event for the report in Monrovia, Liberia.
Statistics show 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," Dr Robert Newman, Director of WHO Global Malaria Programme in Geneva said in the WHO press release.
"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.
Nigeria and DRC
It said the malaria burden is concentrated in 14 endemic countries, which account for an estimated 80% of malaria deaths. 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.
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.
"We are exploring many options – financial transaction taxes, airline ticket taxes together with UNITAID (an international facility for the purchase of drugs against HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis) and a malaria bond among others."
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.
WHO has estimated $5.1 billion which is 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," WHO says.