Greater effort needed to eliminate malaria from Europe by 2015

Malaria remains a health challenge in the WHO European Region, where 253 cases of locally acquired Plasmodium vivax malaria were reported in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Greece, Tajikistan and Turkey in 2012, an increase from 2011. On World Malaria Day 2013, WHO calls on affected countries to sustain malaria interventions even in times of economic austerity. The theme for 2013 and coming years is: “Invest in the future; defeat malaria”.

Work to eliminate the disease from the Region by 2015 remains on track; in 2012 Kazakhstan was the latest country to be certified by WHO as malaria free. Nevertheless, the increase in reported cases shows malaria’s potential to return and settle again in formerly free areas, owing to increased importation from endemic countries as a result of travel and migration. Recent outbreaks of malaria in Greece and Turkey, successfully contained, show that particular attention should be paid to setting up and maintaining effective surveillance systems with full coverage across all geographical areas, as well as capacity for the early detection of and rapid response to outbreaks.

Welcoming the substantial progress made towards eliminating  malaria from Europe, WHO/Europe urges all affected countries to boost their efforts to achieve this historic goal. It  continues to support countries’ work and provides technical assistance to certify malaria elimination whenever possible.

Global progress: fewer deaths but still too many

Over the last decade, the world has made major progress in the fight against malaria. Since 2000, malaria death rates have fallen by more than 25%, and half of the 99 countries with ongoing transmission are now on track to meet the target of reducing the number of new cases by more than 75% by 2015. A major scale-up of vector-control interventions, increased access to diagnostic testing and quality-assured treatment have been key.

But the goal still lies ahead. Every year, malaria still kills an estimated 660 000 people worldwide (mainly children aged under 5 years in sub-Saharan Africa), and more than 200 million cases occur; most are never tested or registered. A decrease in international funding and emerging drug and insecticide resistance threaten to reverse recent gains.

If the world is to maintain and accelerate progress in fighting malaria, more funds are urgently required. Eliminating the disease from Europe would contribute to the achievement of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6 (on combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases) and ensure the attainment of MDGs 4 and 5 (on reducing infant and maternal mortality).

About World Malaria Day

World Malaria Day was established by WHO Member States in 2007. It provides them with an opportunity to highlight the need for continued investment in and sustained political commitment to malaria prevention and control.