GENEVA, April 23 (IPS) – Despite its 229 million cases and 409,000 deaths in 2019, malaria is a neglected epidemic. The emergence of COVID-19 has thrown health systems into chaos and forced countries to shift their focus from malaria to pandemic response, threatening to reverse 20 years of malaria gains.
Now, as we enter the second year of the pandemic, the global response to COVID-19 must not come at the expense of progress against malaria, a preventable and treatable disease. Not only can malaria be eliminated, it is also essential to fight current and future diseases.
It is imperative that the international community remember that malaria eradication remains an achievable goal for all countries. In fact, more countries than ever are catching up or nearing elimination.
In 2017, as part of the “E-2020 initiative”, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified 21 countries that could defeat malaria by 2020. Spread across five regions of the world, these countries share the ambitious goal of achieving zero indigenous cases of malaria by 2020.
And last year, Algeria, Belize, Cape Verde, China, El Salvador, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Malaysia reported zero cases of indigenous malaria, reaching their target, while others made great strides.
Freeing the world of malaria is a central component of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are closely linked to the goals on poverty, inequality, health and well-being. But as long as it persists, malaria will continue to have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable communities.
Innovation plays a vital role in eliminating this disease. New tools, such as those developed by Unitaid and partners, are needed in the face of the emergence of insecticide and drug resistance. These can only be developed with sustained and significant investment in malaria research.
Global investments to end malaria have a huge return on investment. In 2018, they saved 600,000 lives and prevented nearly 100 million cases of malaria from 2000 levels.
In the Asia-Pacific region, against the epidemiological and economic costs of inaction, researchers from the Wellcome Trust have estimated that eliminating malaria by 2030 could save over 400,000 lives, prevent 123 million cases of malaria and lead to a return on investment of 6: 1.
These investments also strengthen health systems that are vital to respond to threats like COVID-19 and help tackle other vector-borne diseases.
Together with partners, the global health agency Unitaid has supported the performance evaluation of new bed nets under real-world conditions in malaria-endemic countries to guide policies on their use.
This aims to open up a market for these new networks and lead to competition between manufacturers, leading to lower prices and a sustainable tool for countries.
Unitaid also invests to accelerate access to next-generation insecticides to re-establish indoor spraying as a malaria control measure and to vary new spray formulas to prevent mosquito populations from becoming resistant to them.
Unitaid’s work has also led to the provision of seasonal malaria chemoprevention to more than six million children in seven Sahelian countries, meeting more than 25% of the region’s needs, monitoring safety, effectiveness, cost and impact. public health of such programs. on a large scale.
On this World Malaria Day, the global health community must reaffirm its commitment to fighting malaria by increasing global investment to prevent, control and ultimately eliminate this disease. COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses of health systems around the world. Now is the time to step up efforts against this preventable disease.
* Unitaid is a global health agency committed to finding innovative solutions to prevent, diagnose and treat disease faster, cheaper and more effectively in low- and middle-income countries. Does our work include funding for initiatives to tackle major diseases such as HIV / AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, as well as HIV co-infections and comorbidities such as cervical cancer and hepatitis? C, and cross-sectional areas, such as fever management.
Unitaid is now applying its expertise to address the challenges in advancing new therapies and diagnostics for the COVID-19 pandemic, serving as a key member of the COVID Access Tools Accelerator. Unitaid is hosted by the World Health Organization.
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