R&D investment is as low as 1%; Need to rethink malaria eradication strategies:WHO

R&D investment is as low as 1%; Need to rethink malaria eradication strategies:WHO

Less than 1% of funding for health R&D investment goes to developing tools to tackle malaria, reports the World Health Organization (WHO).

Accelerated research and development (R&D) in new tools for malaria prevention and treatment is key if the world is to eradicate malaria in the foreseeable future, states WHO.

WHO also flags the urgent need for progress to advance universal health coverage and improve access to services, and better surveillance to guide a more targeted malaria response.

The findings have emerged in a report from WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication (SAGme).

“To achieve a malaria-free world we must reinvigorate the drive to find the transformative strategies and tools that can be tailored to the local situation. Business as usual is not only slowing progress, but it is sending us backwards,” according to Dr Marcel Tanner, Chair of the SAGme.

The group has published the executive summary of its report ahead of a WHO-hosted forum on “Rising to the Challenge of Malaria Eradication” to be held in Geneva on 9 September 2019.

“Freeing the world of malaria would be one of the greatest achievements in public health,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “With new tools and approaches we can make this vision a reality.”

More than 90% of the world’s 400,000 annual malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Children under five account for 61% of all malaria deaths, reports WHO.

The group’s analyses showed that scaling up current malaria interventions would prevent an additional 2 billion malaria cases and 4 million deaths by 2030 – provided those interventions reach 90% of the population in the 29 countries that account for 95% of the global burden.

The cost of this scale-up is estimated to be US$ 34 billion. The economic gain would be around US$ 283 billion in total gross domestic product (GDP) – a benefit to cost ratio in excess of 8:1.

Global malaria infection and death rates have remained virtually unchanged since 2015. WHO’s World Malaria Report in 2018 revealed that the world is currently off track to achieve the 2030 goals set out in the WHO Global Technical Strategy for malaria 2016-2030, i.e. a 90% reduction in the malaria case incidence and mortality rate.

The group noted the need to rethink approaches. SAGme highlights the urgent need to scale up R&D to strengthen this pipeline, pointing to the Malaria Eradication Research Agenda (malERA), which provides a useful starting point to guide the needed R&D investment.

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