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Home » Malaria » Malaria & NTDs » Inaction is unacceptable: how we can re-energise the fight against malaria

The fight against malaria has stalled in some countries. A mix of new and existing tools and approaches can help eliminate and eradicate this preventable but deadly disease.

The world must take a more proactive approach to fight malaria, insists Simon Bland CBE, CEO of Global Institute for Disease Elimination (GLIDE), a United Arab Emirates-based organisation focused on eliminating infectious diseases of poverty. After all, malaria is preventable but accounts for 80% of all deaths in children under five in sub-Saharan Africa.

Global fight against malaria

In recent years, a certain amount of complacency has set in. “Great progress was made just after the turn of the millennium,” notes Bland. “The UN had launched its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and more global investment was going into health. As a result, we saw the malaria curve falling.” But progress stalled long before Covid-19 muddied the waters.

This is not to underplay some impressive successes or ignore the 40 countries that have been granted malaria-free certification from the World Health Organization (WHO). These include El Salvador, Algeria, Argentina, Paraguay and Uzbekistan. Additionally, there was the development of the world’s first malaria vaccine — RTS,S — hailed as a game-changer.

As the world gets warmer, more countries may prove to be amenable habitats for mosquitoes carrying disease-causing parasites.

However, significant challenges remain. “For instance, we’re going to need different tools and approaches to tackle a species of anopheles mosquito now appearing in Africa, which is more urban and bites during the day,” says Bland. “Resistance to therapies and insecticides is increasing — so we need new therapies; new insecticides; and new, rapid, accurate diagnostics that can diagnose several diseases at once.”

There is no silver bullet for this, he admits. “We must use the tools we have and keep developing and rolling out new ones to re-energise the global programme towards the elimination and ultimate eradication of malaria.”

Worryingly, the climate crisis and extreme weather events could hamper these efforts because, as the world gets warmer, more countries may prove to be amenable habitats for mosquitoes carrying disease-causing parasites.

With COP28 taking place in the UAE in November, GLIDE has been contributing to building the field of knowledge about climate and infectious diseases. This includes launching a second iteration of its Falcon Awards for Disease Elimination, supporting research into the subject.

Ultimately, eliminating malaria requires joined-up thinking, says Bland. “No one can do this in isolation. If we work together to eliminate this disease from affected countries, that will be a cause of real celebration. We hope to support, promote and accelerate more celebrations over the next decade.”

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