A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) released today shows that malaria deaths worldwide fell by 47 percent between 2000 and 2013.
The World Malaria Report 2014 also shows that the number of malaria cases overall are decreasing.
The decline in deaths due to malaria was especially notable in Africa where deaths fell by 54 percent between 2000 and 2013. Typically, 90 percent of deaths attributed to malaria occur in Africa.
Even though the population of the sub-Saharan region in Africa has grown by 43 percent, there are fewer malaria cases reported each year. In 2000, 173 million people were diagnosed with malaria on the continent; 128 million malaria cases were confirmed in 2013.
WHO attributes these declining figures to several factors.
Malaria diagnoses and treatments have grown more accurate over time. There are now more than 319 million rapid diagnostic tests available and more than 392 million artemisinin-based combination therapies.
Another factor is the improved access to insecticide-treated bed nets. Since 2000, the percentage of people with access to bed nets treated with insecticides increased from 3 percent to almost half the population. In 2014 alone, 214 million bed nets were delivered to Africa.
As of today, 64 countries are well on their way to meeting the Millennium Development Goal target to eradicate malaria.
Despite these positive figures, WHO experts say there is still much work to be done to eradicate malaria.
“We can win the fight against malaria,” Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO, said. “We have the right tools and our defences are working. But we still need to get those tools to a lot more people if we are to make these gains sustainable.
Millions of people still do not have access to treatments and diagnostics, and 49 countries have reported resistance to indoor residual spraying of insecticides.
“The next few years are going to be critical to show that we can maintain momentum and build on the gains,” Dr. Pedro L. Alonso, director of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme, said.