Malaria control program reduces infections by 50 percent

According to the World Health Organization, a malaria control program instituted since 2008 has reduced infections by over 50 percent in 11 African countries and in two-thirds of 56 other malaria-endemic countries.

The organization, however, worries that a slowdown in funding will risk undoing their achievements in these nations, the Associated Press reports.

The anti-malaria program of the United Nations reached $1.8 billion in funding this year, which led to the purchase of drugs, insecticide and bed nets for millions affected by the mosquito-borne illness. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan told the AP that the goal of stopping malaria deaths worldwide by 2015 would be at risk if the organization cannot meet its funding goals of $6 billion a year.

Malaria infections decreased from 233 million in 2000 to 225 million in 2009 despite the swell of populations in poor countries. Deaths fell from 985,000 in 2000 to 781,000 last year, according to the AP.

The WHO is also worried that drug-resistant infections of malaria have spread as weaker, single-drug therapies have become ineffective. If these drugs aren’t banned, Chan said, widespread resistance to the stronger treatment called Artemisinin-based combination therapy may occur.

“We are down to the last effective medicine to treat malaria,” Chan said, according to the AP. “If we lose Artemisinin, we are back to square one.”