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Press releases 2011

Roll Back Malaria report heralds record success and anticipates near-zero malaria deaths in next decade if efforts sustained

Press release 12.09.2011
Global action to combat malaria has reduced deaths by more than one third, saving 1.1 million lives in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade

Paris, London, 12 September 2011 – A new report released today by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM) finds that the world has made remarkable gains against malaria in the past ten years, increasing optimism that an end to the disease is in sight. According to Roll Back Malaria Partnership: A Decade of Partnership and Results, global malaria deaths have dropped by an estimated 38%, with 43 countries (11 of them in Africa) cutting malaria cases or deaths by 50% or more, reversing the trend of the previous decade and saving over a million lives.

"Only rarely have we seen a public health initiative provide so much return on investment. Thanks to the efforts of the Roll Back Malaria Partners over the past decade, we have a foundation that allows affected countries and communities to reach even greater results in the years to come", said the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

With approximately US$ 5 billion mobilised over this period, coverage has risen across all interventions to prevent and treat malaria, particularly insecticide-treated nets. Enough nets have been distributed to cover nearly 80% of the population at risk in sub-Saharan Africa. According to Dr Robert Newman, Director of WHO's Global Malaria Programme, the report's findings are cause for real optimism. "The results of the past decade exceed what anyone could have predicted and prove that malaria control is working. Many of these achievements have occurred in the last five years, which tells us that we are becoming increasingly effective in our ability to tackle this disease."

In the past decade, an additional three countries have eliminated malaria and another 26 are in various stages of the elimination process. It is expected that all of the countries in the World Health Organization's (WHO) European Region will have eliminated malaria by 2015. Roughly half of the world's population is at risk of malaria, a preventable and treatable disease that killed almost 800,000 people in 2009, primarily young children and pregnant women. Over 90% of malaria deaths occur in Africa, where the disease also costs the continent an estimated US$ 12 billion annually in lost productivity.

Progress fuelled by groundbreaking changes in malaria control
The recent acceleration of the malaria response stems from huge changes in the global malaria landscape over the past decade. A number of new agencies and initiatives have been created that greatly contribute to the fight against malaria, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosisand Malaria, the US President's Malaria Initiative, the World Bank Malaria Booster Program, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNITAID, the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Malaria, various civil society organizations and others. The Roll Back Malaria Partnership, founded in 1998 to coordinate global action against malaria, now includes over 500 private and public sector partners.

International funding for malaria has seen a more than 15-fold increase since 2003, jumping from US$ 100 million to US$ 1.5 billion annually in 2010. Existing donor countries, such as the United Kingdom, the USA and France, have also stepped up contributions.

"It is great news that 1.1 million children's lives have been saved from this killer disease over the past decade but we know that there is still much more to do. We must keep our foot on the pedal. Tackling malaria is vital to reducing child deaths. Over the next decade we need to see even stronger partnerships, cutting edge innovation and decisive leadership which will help us achieve the global target of zero deaths due to malaria by 2015," said the UK's Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Development, Stephen O'Brien.

"We want to see the increased impact of new technology - such as diagnostics kits, bednets and effective anti-malarial drugs - by making sure they are available and used by those that need them most, when they need them. The important work of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership will be vital to achieving this."

"The powerful partnership committed to standing up to malaria has dramatically increased access to relatively simple intervention and treatment options, which is translating directly into lives saved," said Ray Chambers, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Malaria. "By confronting malaria all cause child mortality is also on the decline, and we must finish the job and reach the Secretary-General's goal of ending malaria deaths by 2015."

Malaria prevention and treatment has been transformed by the development of new, more effective drugs, rapid diagnostic tests and long-lasting insecticide-treated nets, all products that did not exist ten years ago. Hundreds of new products are now in the research and development pipeline, including a vaccine.

."We are light years away from where we were ten years ago,." says Professor Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Executive Director of the RBM Partnership. "And we have reached this position not only because of new tools, vastly improved policies, financing, and strategies but also because we have found new ways of working together. A key factor in our success has been effective partnership involving donor countries, the private sector, civil society and UN organizations, with African countries taking a key leadership role.."

Even greater progress is possible, though risks and gaps remain
Despite these impressive gains, many people at risk of malaria still lack sufficient access to critical treatment and prevention options, such as insecticide treated nets, indoor spraying with insecticides, diagnostic testing, and effective antimalarial drugs, including drugs to treat and prevent malaria in pregnant women. There is more to be done to address these issues, but with appropriate commitments, the gains can accrue rapidly.

However, even those countries which have already demonstrated remarkable success in controlling malaria continue to face significant challenges today. The progress achieved to date through greatly scaled-up prevention with insecticide treated nets and indoor residual spraying is threatened by the emergence of mosquitoes resistant to current insecticides. Gains are also threatened by the emergence of malaria parasites, identified in the Mekong region in Asia, which are resistant to artemisinin, the key component of the most effective drug combinations currently available to treat malaria.

Perhaps the biggest risk to progress is the uncertainty of funding. Sustained, even increased financing will be required to consolidate the gains made and continue to move forward. Unless malaria remains high on the global health agenda, the progress achieved can quickly backslide. ."This report shows that leadership, partnership and funding for malaria control can save many, many children's lives,." said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, ."but to sustain these gains, we must do more to protect, diagnose and treat those mothers and children who are the most vulnerable and most in need.."

As significant gains have been achieved – and lives are being saved – the goals of the global malaria community have become increasingly ambitious: the Global Malaria Action Plan's new targets now call for achieving near-zero deaths by 2015 by accelerating access to diagnostics and treatment (in addition to ensuring continued high coverage with prevention) and are targeting the elimination of the disease in a further 8-10 countries.

Media Contact:
The RBM Secretariat
Pru Smith – Geneva
Mobile: +41 79 477 1744
Direct: +41 22 791 4586
Email smithp@who.int

The Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM) is the global framework for coordinated action against malaria. Founded in 1998 by UNICEF, WHO, UNDP and the World Bank and strengthened by the expertise, resources and commitment of more than 500 partner organizations, RBM is a public-private partnership that facilitates the incubation of new ideas, lends support to innovative approaches, promotes high-level political commitment and keeps malaria high on the global agenda by enabling, harmonizing and amplifying partner-driven advocacy initiatives. RBM secures policy guidance and financial and technical support for control efforts in countries and monitors progress towards universal goals. The RBM Secretariat is hosted at WHO in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Report "Rolling Back Malaria: A Decade of Partnership and Results" will be presented by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Professor Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Executive Director of the RBM Partnership at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday, September 13th.