WHO misses malaria goal

The World Health Organization recently announced that it missed its goal of cutting the incidence of worldwide malaria cases in half by 2010.

Experts at the WHO said their efforts were only able to reduce malaria cases by 17 percent since 2000. In 2010, there were believed to be approximately 216 million cases of the mosquito-borne infection, with approximately 81 percent of the total living in Africa. The majority of cases occurred in children under the age of five, according to the Washington Post.

The WHO’s figures were met with a degree of skepticism because more than two dozen African countries lacked the ability to properly conduct disease surveillance.

Dr. Robert Newman, the director of the WHO’s malaria program, said he was disappointed by the results, but called it significant that the death rate from malaria dropped by one-third in Africa. He called the current goal of reducing the number of malaria deaths to near zero by 2015 “aspirational.”

Newman added that the goal could only be accomplished if every person at risk had access to bed netting and if suspected cases were properly diagnosed and treated. He said the total cost to achieve such measures would be close to $6 billion a year, approximately three times more than the world currently spends.

“It is unacceptable that people continue to die from malaria for lack of a $5 bed net, a 50 cent diagnostic test and a $1 anti-malarial treatment,” Newman said, the Washington Post reports.

Some experts question why the WHO has set such lofty targets in the face of economic uncertainties and reduced funding.

“I understand why people want these big, audacious targets, but it may undermine malaria (control) in the long term,” Richard Tren, the director of the non-profit Africa Fighting Malaria, said, according to the Washington Post. “It may be reckless to overreach.”