The world is in danger of losing the fight against malaria, as cases of the disease rose by around five million year-on-year in 2022, exceeding global targets to contain it, a new World Health Organisation report showed on Thursday (Nov 30).
Pandemic-related disruptions and extreme weather events linked to climate change have hindered the fight against malaria in recent years.
But progress, since 2015, had already stalled due to rising drug and insecticide resistance and conflict, the WHO’s annual World Malaria Report said.
“More than ever, we are at risk of losing our fight against this disease,” Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said.
“The report reveals that progress has ground to a halt, and in some places is reversing. Unless we take action now, malaria could resurge dramatically, wiping out the hard-won gains of the last two decades.”
In 2022, there were an estimated 249 million cases of malaria.
At the same time, the global malaria case incidence was 58.4 cases per 1,000 people who are deemed to be at risk, versus the WHO’s target of 26.2 cases by 2025.
Progress towards the 2025 milestone is 55 per cent off track, the global health body said, and will be missed by 89 per cent this year if the trajectory persists.
Cases surged in areas where weather was most extreme.
Floods in Pakistan last year, for example, led to a five-fold increase in malaria cases in the country, the report showed.
Malaria deaths declined steadily between 2000 and 2019, from 864,000 to 576,000. They rose during the pandemic, and an estimated 608,000 people died of the disease last year, mainly young children.
Two new malaria vaccines, both of which are due to be available next year, provide some hope.
But the report also showed a significant funding gap in the response. While US$4.1 billion (S$5.47 billion) was invested in the global effort to tackle malaria in 2022, roughly US$7.8 billion was needed, it said.