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WHO should commit to eradicating malaria by 2040, says Gates Foundation

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h5240 (Published 01 October 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5240
  1. Anne Gulland
  1. 1London

The World Health Organization has been urged to commit to eradicating malaria by 2040, building on recent progress that has cut the number of deaths from the disease.

A report by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Ray Chambers, the United Nations’ special envoy for malaria, laid out what it would take to eliminate malaria by 2040.1 It urged the World Health Assembly, WHO’s decision making body, to make a declaration on malaria eradication if certain key milestones are met.

Around 600 million people worldwide are predicted to be infected with malaria in 2015, a figure that the report said could be more than halved within the next five years. The cost of elimination would be $90bn (£60bn; €80bn) to $120bn, although this figure is speculative, the report noted. However, it estimated that eradication would bring productivity gains and health savings in the region of $2 trillion.

The report warned that access to confirmed anti-malaria tools must be increased, particularly in badly affected countries. These tools include long lasting insecticidal bed nets, indoor residual spraying, artemisinin based combination therapy, and rapid diagnostic tests.

All malaria infections must be cured and found, not just clinical cases, the foundation’s report warned, and surveillance of malaria must be the “backbone of elimination.”

New tools to combat the disease will include single dose treatments, which are currently in advanced clinical trials, and innovative vector control methods such as insecticide treated paints and wall liners to protect people when they are not in bed. Longer term developments include vaccines that interrupt malaria transmission, as well as techniques to induce genetic changes that would reduce mosquito populations.

A joint WHO and Unicef report released earlier this month showed that the number of deaths from malaria has been cut by half in the past 15 years. It also showed that an increasing number of countries have moved towards eliminating malaria.2 In 2014, 13 countries that had malaria in 2000 reported no locally acquired cases, and a further six countries reported fewer than 10 locally acquired cases.

Chambers hailed the progress of the past 15 years, adding, “The next five years are vital for setting in motion an ambitious yet achievable plan to eradicate malaria by 2040. We must double down on our commitment and move with deliberate haste to bring in new investments, develop new tools, and implement new regional strategies to see our unified goal of a malaria-free world become a reality.”

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5240

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