The Countdown to Counting Out Malaria in 2010

The Countdown to Counting Out Malaria in 2010

Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) joins the global malaria community in commemorating the third World Malaria Day on 25 April 2010. It is a day when we recommit to our combined efforts to wipe malaria from the face of the earth. 2010 is an important year, a milestone year, a year by which global leaders had agreed to reduce malaria mortality by 50% from 2000 levels. By 2010, the Roll Back Malaria’s Global Malaria Action Plan (GMAP) also hoped to achieve universal coverage for all at-risk populations for prevention and case management. This was a mid-term goal on the long road to malaria eradication. And what has been achieved?

Much progress has been made in the past decade. In 2000, it was estimated that over one million people died from the disease each year. This figure has been falling and, according to the World Malaria Report 2009, it now stands at 863,000 lives lost annually. This considerable reduction has been the result of targeted malaria control initiatives in endemic countries: twice as many people own and use long-lasting insecticide-treated bed-nets; six times as many children with fever have been treated with artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs); four times as many people are protected by indoor residual spraying, and there’s a growing use of diagnostic testing. There are further success stories: Some countries have even reached beyond the 2010 target reduction in malaria cases and mortality - Rwanda, Eritrea, Sao Tome & Principe, Zambia and Zanzibar (WMR 2009).

MMV has contributed significantly to this progress by launching, in January 2009, Coartem® Dispersible with its partner Novartis, the first high quality, sweet-tasting, child-friendly antimalarial. Our access work has helped ensure its registration in 24 disease-endemic countries and 16 million treatments have been supplied to 13 of these nations. Today this paediatric medicine is in the hands of patients, saving lives.

Also commendable is the dramatic rise in funding for malaria programmes over the past few years. The first in the RBM Progress & Impact series, “Malaria Funding and Resource Utilization”, released in March 2010, states that external funding commitments for malaria have been unprecedented – around $4.6 bn between 2003-2009 – stabilizing at approximately $1.6 bn per year.

With such enhancements and improvements chipping away at the global burden of malaria one could imagine malaria eradication would be just round the corner. Yet $1.6 billion a year will never be enough to vanquish malaria. RBM estimates that between $5-6 billion is needed annually to fund malaria programme implementation costs and research and development of new interventions. In spite of the tangible progress, in spite of the fact that a million lives have been saved since 2000, we cannot lose sight of the fact that today, malaria continues to take the lives of over 2,000 infants and young children every day.

Another menace is the looming threat of artemisinin resistance, which can undermine ACTs, the current gold-standard treatment. If the medicines in our arsenal stop working, the potential devastation wreaked by reinvigorated, drug-resistant malaria is unthinkable. Keeping abreast of these developments, Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) has reprioritized its R&D strategy to discover, develop and deliver medicines for both P.falciparum and P.vivax malaria, as well as medicines that counter resistance and tackle transmission. But to achieve its mission MMV needs sustained financial support and collaboration from world class research partners.  

Investment in malaria prevention and control strategies has shown great results but there is a long road ahead. This World Malaria Day, MMV urges the world to dig deeper into its pockets and find the resources to support the research, development, and delivery of new medicines, insecticides, diagnostics and vaccines.

Only by working together will we be able to defeat malaria.