Every year on April 25, World Malaria Day is celebrated to recognize global initiatives in the fight against malaria. The World Health Organization (WHO) stresses the importance of sustained political commitment and investment for malaria prevention and control on this occasion.
WHO member countries established this day during the 2007 World Health Assembly. This year’s theme, “Time for malaria zero: invest, innovate, implement,” emphasizes the need to promote awareness of implementation of available techniques and methods to control and ultimately eliminate malaria.
History of World Malaria Day
The idea of World Malaria Day was first proposed by African governments in 1997. It was later adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) during the African Summit to Roll Back Malaria in Abuja, Nigeria, in 2000.
The summit was intended to bring together African leaders and the international community to work towards the goal of halving malaria-related deaths in Africa by 2010.
In 2007, World Malaria Day was officially recognized by WHO member states during the 60th session of the World Health Assembly. The day was established to provide a platform for countries and organizations to showcase their efforts in the fight against malaria and to raise awareness of the disease’s impact on global health and development.
Malaria: Current global status
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. It is one of the world’s most significant public health challenges, with around 228 million cases and 405,000 deaths reported in 2018. Most of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, with children under five years of age being the most vulnerable.
WHO has set itself the goal of reducing the incidence and mortality rates of malaria by 90% by 2030. This ambitious target is part of the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030, which aims to accelerate progress towards elimination of malaria.
In the United States, April 25 was declared as Malaria Awareness Day in 2007 by President George W. Bush, who urged American citizens to participate in global efforts to eradicate malaria in Africa.
In Europe, on World Malaria Day 2014, the European Vaccine Initiative announced 16 new projects to expedite the development of malaria vaccines.
In India, various measures were put in place to control the spread of malaria on World Malaria Day 2017. For instance, the coastal city of Mangaluru identified open water resources that were targeted for the elimination of mosquitoes that spread malaria.
Status of Malaria in India
India has set itself the goal of being malaria free by 2027 and completely eliminating the disease by 2030. The country has already made impressive progress in reducing malaria cases by 66% between 2018 and 2022.
However, according to the World Malaria Report 2022 published by the WHO, India still accounted for 79% of all malaria cases and 83% of all malaria deaths in the Southeast Asia region in 2021 -country impact in the region reporting a decrease in malaria cases in 2020 compared to 2019.
Efforts to Eliminate Malaria
The fight against malaria requires a comprehensive and coordinated approach involving multiple stakeholders, including governments, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. Some of the key strategies that have been implemented to control and eliminate malaria include:
- Insecticide-treated bed nets: These nets are treated with insecticides that kill mosquitoes on contact. They are an effective tool for preventing malaria transmission and are distributed widely in malaria-endemic countries.
- Indoor residual spraying: This involves spraying insecticides inside homes to kill mosquitoes that rest on walls and ceilings.
- Rapid diagnostic tests: These tests allow for the quick and accurate diagnosis of malaria, enabling prompt treatment and reducing the risk of complications.
- Artemisinin-based combination therapies: These are the most effective treatment for malaria and have contributed to a significant reduction in malaria-related deaths.
- Vaccines: Several vaccines are currently in development, and the RTS,S vaccine was approved for use in Africa in 2019. While not a silver bullet, vaccines have the potential to play a significant role in malaria control and elimination.
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