Almost one-third of all malaria-stricken countries on pace to eliminate the disease

The World Health Organization recently announced that nearly a third of all countries affected by malaria are on track to eliminate the disease in the next decade.

In a report generated by the Roll Back Malaria partnership for the start of an international Malaria Forum meeting in Seattle, the WHO said remarkable progress has been made in the fight against the mosquito-borne illness, according to Reuters.

"Better diagnostic testing and surveillance has provided a clearer picture of where we are on the ground - and has shown that there are countries eliminating malaria in all endemic regions of the world," Robert Newman, the director of the WHO's Global Malaria Program, said, Reuters reports. "We know that we can save lives with today's tools."

Approximately 3.3 billion people, many living in the world’s poorest countries, are at risk for contracting malaria. The disease is thought to have killed 781,000 people in 2009, mostly in Africa.

Malaria elimination programs were first attempted on a large scale from 1955 to 1972. During that time, the WHO certified 20 countries as malaria-free. In the following 30 years, as efforts began to lapse, the number dropped to only four.

"The extraordinary commitment, the...financing, and the coordination of efforts to realize malaria targets over the last ten years have resulted in a situation today where we could see 10 more countries reaching a malaria-free status in a relatively short time," Marie Coll-Seck, RBM's executive director, said, reports.

The WHO report said that up to a third of the 108 countries where malaria is endemic could wipe out the disease within 10 years.