Malaria is a serious and often fatal disease caused by a bite from a mosquito infected with the malaria parasite. People with malaria suffer from fevers, shaking chills, flu-like symptoms and, in severe cases, meningitis or death. Malaria typically occurs in tropical and subtropical areas of the world, putting more than half of the world’s population at risk.
In 2019, there were an estimated 229 million new cases of malaria, resulting in approximately 409,000 deaths worldwide. Although cases have either plateaued or slightly increased in recent years, death rates have continued to fall to their lowest in history. Children under age 5 accounted for roughly 66% of these fatalities. One child dies every two minutes for lack of simple, cost-effective tools such as an insecticide-treated net or a course of treatment.
Broader use of cost-effective malaria interventions between 2000 and 2019 — including insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying, antimalarial medication and rapid diagnostic tests — helped to save over 7.6 million lives and prevent 1.5 billion cases of malaria.
Since its launch in 2005, the President’s Malaria Initiative, or PMI, has procured more than 393 million long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent infection, 461 million rapid diagnostic tests and more than 626 million antimalarial treatments.
In 2019, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria provided 160 million bed nets, tested 243 million suspected cases of the disease, treated 124 million cases and covered 8 million structures with indoor residual spray.
Maintain strong, bipartisan support for PMI and the Global Fund through increased funding to best minimize the disruption of intervention delivery and avert increases in cases and deaths. Sustained support is needed to address issues and regain momentum.
Build on the progress achieved to create a malaria-free future and eliminate the threat of resurgence. While many of the 87 countries where malaria is endemic are progressing toward elimination, others are experiencing plateaued progress or regression. Historically, gains made have proven fragile and backsliding is possible without sufficient support.
Encourage donors and the U.S. administration to support country- and region-specific malaria elimination efforts. The end of malaria also means the end of recurring costs for treatment and control of the disease, an end to missed school and workdays, and an end to the needless deaths and disability of millions. With new tools on the horizon and strong partnerships in endemic countries, renewed enthusiasm and funding are both critical to reaching the long-term goal of disease eradication.
Continue investing in the research and development of new tools and approaches that hold the promise of controlling and eliminating the disease, including those needed to combat drug and insecticide resistance. Consideration must be given to the long-term benefits of U.S. leadership in research and development and the need for new tools to accelerate progress toward ending malaria, such as next-generation diagnostics and drugs, novel insecticides, and vaccines.
Photo Credit: World Vision
IPG ENSURE- Gertrude Health Center Gertrude, right, demonstrates how to weigh a baby at Chayamiti Health Center.
Photo Credit: World Vision
For now, this is the safest place to bring up Aruna. Little Aruna Ag Ali and his mother at Senou IDP site in Mali
The U.S. is the global leader in the fight against malaria. Through bilateral and multilateral programs, the U.S. supports implementation of malaria prevention and treatment activities around the world, as well as the development of malaria vaccines, antimalarial drugs, diagnostics, insecticides and other related research. It is imperative that the U.S. continues to lead and support all countries working toward malaria elimination.
Malaria investments aren’t done in a vacuum. They have secondary and tertiary effects on the greater health systems within an endemic country, all while elevating a people’s economic and educational opportunities. Decreasing malarial infections means greater health system capacity, lower health care costs, higher productivity from a workforce, economic empowerment and stability, and increased educational access. It also means a blueprint that can be used against other diseases of poverty and emergent disease outbreaks.
PMI launched in 2005 under former President George W. Bush, and, due to its marked success, has been expanded to 27 high-burden countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the Greater Mekong Subregion of Southeast Asia.
The remarkable progress achieved to date in fighting malaria is the result of coordinated action between U.S. bilateral and multilateral programs, interagency cooperation, country-coordinating mechanisms and private sector partners. However, the gains made against malaria are fragile; retreating on investment now would not only stall the progress made but create a pathway for resurgence.
PMI and the Global Fund remain evidence-based, responsible stewards of American taxpayer dollars, deploying cost-effective, accessible interventions to extinguish one of history’s greatest villains. Only with sustained support of U.S. government malaria programs, coupled with the use of existing tools and the creation of new ones, will we be able to eradicate malaria for good.
COVID-19 has the capability to derail much of the progress made against malaria. The World Health Organization reported that malaria deaths could double this year alone if intervention delivery was seriously delayed, returning rates to levels unseen since 2000. Both PMI and the Global Fund are investing to bend both the malaria and COVID-19 curves simultaneously. By accelerating malaria prevention and control instead of decreasing it, in-country capacity can be expanded to address COVID-19 through leveraging PMI and Global Fund surveillance networks and removing malaria fevers from overburdened health care systems.
Jodie Curtis, American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacci Guy, United Nations Foundation, email@example.com
Kara Saleeby, Malaria No More, firstname.lastname@example.org
HEADER PHOTO CREDIT: Rejoice Phiri, MSH
A Health Surveillance Assistant in Malawi helps conduct a malaria study. USAID’s ONSE Health Activity