WHO European Region aims to wipe out malaria in 4 years: Roll Back Malaria partners target strongholds of the disease

Copenhagen, 21 October 2011

Eliminating malaria by the end of 2015 in at least 8–10 additional countries globally, and thus from the entire WHO European Region, is one of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership’s objectives. A new WHO report, “Eliminating malaria: learning from the past, looking ahead”, clearly indicates that the 53 countries that make up the European Region are very close to reaching the goal.

Hopes of wiping out the disease in the Region have been growing since WHO declared Turkmenistan and, last week, Armenia malaria free. A country can request WHO to certify its malaria-free status when its surveillance system has reported no cases for at least three consecutive years. In addition, since 2010, locally acquired Plasmodium vivax malaria cases have been reported in only five European countries: Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan. Georgia reported its last locally acquired malaria case in 2009. The temporary reintroduction of malaria transmission in Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation has been controlled in recent years.

“We are exterminating the disease from its last remaining strongholds,” says Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “With strong human capacity, continued investment, evidence-based programming and continued partnership, achieving the ambitious Roll Back Malaria targets for 2015, including the elimination of the disease from the WHO European Region, is within our grasp.”

WHO’s eradication programme has targeted malaria since 1955. The campaign successfully eliminated the disease in some countries, but ultimately failed to achieve its overall goal. It was thus abandoned less than two decades later in favour of the less ambitious goal of malaria control. In recent years, however, interest has re-emerged in malaria eradication as a long-term goal.

Unprecedented increases in funding have resulted in the massive scale-up of new tools – such as long-lasting insecticide-treated bednets, rapid diagnostic tests and artemisinin-based combination therapies – and consequent sharp reductions in the malaria burden. Importantly, these investments have been matched with strong commitment from countries.

In the WHO European Region, strong political commitment resulted in the signing of the Tashkent Declaration, in which all malaria-affected countries in the European and neighbouring WHO regions pledged to eliminate the disease within a decade. (Their efforts are supported by WHO, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the European Commission Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Medical Relief International Charity (MERLIN), the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED) and others. Some countries – including Belgium, Germany, Italy and Japan – have provided financial assistance.)

Experts, however, caution that, in addition to countries’ commitment, elimination efforts require sustained technical and financial support from regional and global partners. Investment in malaria control needs to increase substantially.

Further, the new WHO report provides the most accurate information on the burden of the disease, the work of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership and progress in all WHO regions.

Progress in Europe

WHO measures progress in eliminating malaria in the European Region in three periods (the names used in each are those that were accurate at the time, and asterisks mark the countries that completed WHO certification as malaria free):

  • 1955–1972: Bulgaria*, Cyprus*, Hungary*, Italy*, the Netherlands*, Poland*, Portugal*, Romania*, Spain*, the USSR (except the republics now called Azerbaijan and Tajikistan) and Yugoslavia*;
  • 1973–1999: Greece; and
  • 2000–2011: Armenia*, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan*.

Roll Back Malaria Partnership

The Partnership, which includes WHO, is the global framework in which over 500 partners take coordinated action against malaria. It mobilizes resources for action and forges consensus among partners.

For further information, please contact:

Mikhail Ejov
Acting Programme Manager, Malaria and Other Vector-borne and Parasitic Diseases
Tel: +45 39 17 15 54, +45 23 31 94 91 (mobile)
E-mail: mej@euro.who.int

Viv Taylor-Gee
Communications Adviser
Tel: +45 39 17 12 31, +45 22 72 36 91 (mobile)
E-mail: vge@euro.who.int