The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged countries to implement new and existing anti-malaria interventions including the use of its pilot vaccine programme to save lives, particularly in Africa.
WHO’s Director-General, Ethiopia’s Mr Tedros Ghebreyesus made the call on Tuesday in his message to mark the 2023 World Malaria Day.
The World Malaria Day is celebrated annually on April 25.
WHO’s latest World Malaria Report published in December 2022, showed that there was an estimated 247 million new cases of malaria in 2021.
It showed that nearly 1.5 million children at high risk of illness and death from malaria in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, had received the first dose of the first-ever malaria vaccine.
The vaccine is part of an on-going WHO-coordinated pilot programme.
Launched in 2019, the malaria vaccine pilots are increasing equity in access to prevention tools for the most vulnerable and they are already saving lives, the WHO stated.
If implemented broadly, the UN health agency estimates that every year, the vaccines could save tens of thousands of lives.
A second malaria vaccine, if approved, could help close the sizable gap between supply and demand and further reduce child illnesses and deaths from malaria, the WHO stated.
Meanwhile, 28 new products in the research and development pipeline include innovative tools as new types of insecticide-treated nets, targeted baits that attract mosquitoes, and genetic engineering of mosquitoes.
The African region accounted for an estimated 95 per cent of all malaria cases and 96 per cent of all deaths in 2021, the WHO also stated.
It added that nearly 80 per cent of malaria deaths in Africa were among children under the age of five.
The WHO also stated in the report that challenges in expanding access to malaria services had been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in sub-Sahara Africa.
Converging humanitarian crises, restricted funding, weak surveillance systems, and declines in the effectiveness of core malaria-fighting tools had been other challenges, it added.
To address these threats and support countries in building more resilient malaria programmes, the WHO recently published a series of new tools.
It was part of a strategy to contain antimalarial drug resistance in Africa; and a framework, developed jointly by the WHO and UN-Habitat to guide city leaders in urban malaria control.
Continued investment in the development and deployment of new vaccines and next-generation tools would be germane to achieving the 2030 global malaria targets, the WHO stressed.
“We have the tools to drive down malaria – a package of interventions that includes vector control, preventive medicines, testing, and treatment,” Ghebreyesus said.
The theme for the 2023 World Malaria Day is: “Time to deliver zero malaria: invest, innovate, implement’’. (NAN)