April 25, 2012, 8:28 a.m.
The theme for World Malaria Day 2012 - "Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria" - marks a decisive juncture in the history of malaria control. Whether the malaria map will keep shrinking, as it has in the past decade, or be reclaimed by the malaria parasites, depends, to a great extent, on the resources that will be invested in control efforts over the next years.
Investments in malaria control have created unprecedented momentum and yielded remarkable returns in the past years. In Africa, malaria deaths have been cut by one third within the last decade; outside of Africa, 35 out of the 53 countries, affected by malaria, have reduced cases by 50% in the same time period. In countries where access to malaria control interventions has improved most significantly, overall child mortality rates have fallen by approximately 20%.
However, these gains are fragile and will be reversed unless malaria continues to be a priority for global, regional and national decision-makers and donors. Despite the current economic climate, development aid needs to continue flowing to national malaria control programs to ensure widespread population access to life-saving and cost-effective interventions. Long-term success will also depend on investments in on-going research and development to combat emerging threats such as parasite resistance.
Sustaining malaria control efforts is an investment in development. Continued investment in malaria control now will propel malaria-endemic countries toward near-zero deaths by 2015 and achieving the Millennium Development Goals, especially those relating to improving child survival and maternal health, eradicating extreme poverty and expanding access to education.