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On World Malaria Day (April 25, 2014), the World Health Organization (WHO) is launching a manual to help countries to assess the technical, operational and financial feasibility of moving toward malaria elimination.
WHO’s new guide, "From Malaria Control to Malaria Elimination: A Manual for Elimination Scenario Planning," will provide these countries with a comprehensive framework to assess different scenarios and timelines for moving towards elimination, depending on program coverage and funding availability.
“Increased political commitment and the expansion of global malaria investments have saved some 3.3 million lives since 2000,” says Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO. ”Countries where malaria remains endemic now want to build on this success.”
Since 2000, there has been a 42 percent reduction in malaria mortality rates globally, and a 49 percent decline in the WHO African Region. This progress has led some malaria-endemic countries, even those with historically high burdens of malaria, to start exploring the possibility of elimination.
But although many countries have the political will to commit to elimination, technical, operational and financial obstacles remain, particularly in countries that have a high disease burden.
The WHO manual will help countries assess what resources they need to reduce malaria transmission to very low levels, i.e., the point at which focused elimination programmes can start in earnest. It will also help them consider appropriate timelines and provide them with essential knowledge for long-term strategic planning for malaria programmes.
“This long-term view on malaria is critical: it is vital to plan for the period after elimination,” says Dr. John Reeder, director of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme. “If interventions are eased or abandoned, malaria transmission can re-establish relatively quickly in areas that are prone to the disease, leading to a resurgence in infections and deaths.”
Having reduced malaria transmission to very low levels and re-oriented their malaria programme activities, 19 countries are currently classified by WHO as being in the “pre-elimination or elimination phase”. Seven more countries have reduced transmission to zero and are in the “prevention of re-introduction phase.”
In recent years, the WHO Director-General has certified four countries malaria-free: the United Arab Emirates (2007), Morocco (2010), Turkmenistan (2010) and Armenia (2011).
World Malaria Day was instituted by WHO member states during the 2007 World Health Assembly. It is an occasion to highlight the need for continued investment and sustained political commitment for malaria control and elimination. The theme for the 2013-2015 campaign is: "Invest in the future. Defeat malaria."
There were an estimated 207 million cases of malaria in 2012, causing more than 600 000 deaths. Malaria transmission occurs in 97 countries and territories around the world, inflicting the heaviest toll on countries of sub-Saharan Africa.