Malaria elimination and the dangers of complacency

http://www.worldmalariaday.org/home_en.cfm"Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria" the theme of this year’s World Malaria Day says it all really.

In 2010 alone, 655,000 people died of malaria, mostly African children. As malaria is both preventable and curable, these deaths were unnecessary. Yet, there is positive news on this front. Eisele et al., report that action to prevent malarial death amongst children has resulted in saving the lives of 842,800 children worldwide over the last decade. These measures contribute towards achieving Millenium Development Goals 4 and 6c, reducing infant mortality and reversing the incidence of malaria, respectively.

Investment in malaria control over the last decade has yielded much success, and the Malaria Map’ has been shrinking over the last decade. Malaria endemic regions and countries are now planning elimination programmes, and envisaging a time when they will have successfully eliminated a disease that has historically been a massive socioeconomic burden for them. 

With all this success, it is easy to become complacent and decrease investment in malaria elimination. However, history has taught us that this is when we are most at risk from malaria resurgence. An investigation by Cohen et al., published today in Malaria Journal, shows that there have been 75 episodes of malarial resurgence (since the 1930s) in areas where the disease was under control. Most of these incidents are linked to a weakening of malaria control programmes, leading to malaria returning to these areas. These results show that investment in malaria control needs to be sustained, as otherwise the success of the past decade will be overturned by the resurgence of the disease.

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