Malaria, one of the world’s leading killers, could be eradicated as early as 2050, according to a new report published by The Lancet Commission on malaria eradication.
Authored by 26 of the world’s leading malaria experts, this seminal report synthesizes existing evidence with new epidemiological and financial analyses to demonstrate that – with the right tools, strategies, and sufficient funding – eradication of the disease is possible within a generation. The Commission’s report is the first peer-reviewed, academic document of its kind.
“For too long, malaria eradication has been a distant dream, but now we have evidence that malaria can and should be eradicated by 2050,” said Sir Richard Feachem, KBE, PhD, DSc(Med), co-chair of The Lancet Commission on malaria eradication and director of the Global Health Group at UC San Francisco. “This report shows that eradication is possible within a generation. But to achieve this common vision, we simply cannot continue with a business-as-usual approach. The world is at a tipping point, and we must instead challenge ourselves with ambitious targets and the bold action needed to meet them.”
Global Malaria Trends
Recent decades have seen unprecedented progress made against malaria, prompting discussions about the feasibility of eradicating the disease altogether. Since 2000, global malaria incidence and death rates declined by 36 percent and 60 percent, respectively, due to strong leadership, country-driven ambition, innovative new tools and strategies, and increased investments peaking at US$4.3 billion in 2016. Today, more than half of the world’s countries are malaria-free.
However, this progress hangs in the balance. Despite global efforts, there are 219 million cases of malaria reported around the world each year, claiming the lives of 435,000 individuals. The achievements of the past two decades are threatened by recent plateaus in global funding, together with a rise of malaria cases in 55 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America and increasing concern of parasite and vector resistance to currently available tools like insecticides and artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs).
Modeling A World Free From Malaria
The Lancet Commission on malaria eradication, a joint endeavor between The Lancet and UCSF, was convened in 2017 to consider the feasibility, affordability, and merit of malaria eradication, inform global opinion, and identify priority actions for the achievement of eradication.
In the report, the authors used new modelling to estimate plausible scenarios of global change in 2030 and 2050, with and without the scale-up of malaria interventions, to illustrate future changes in the distribution and intensity of malaria. Analyses indicate that social and environmental trends are, in most places, helping to drive down malaria incidence, and that maintaining current efforts would likely achieve a world largely malaria-free by 2050. But even with improved coverage and targeting of current malaria control interventions, pockets of low-level transmission would likely persist across equatorial Africa.
Rather than continue efforts to gradually reduce malaria in most countries, hold the constant threat of resurgence at bay, and fight an ongoing and increasingly difficult struggle against drug and insecticide resistance, the report notes the malaria community can instead choose to commit to time-bound eradication goal that will bring purpose, urgency, and dedication to end malaria once and for all.