On 25th April 2023 the WHO observed World Malaria Day with a call for “increased implementation” of “new and existing interventions” to save lives from malaria. The theme for this year is “Time to deliver zero malaria: invest, innovate, implement.” Under this heading, WHO is “urging” more effective implementation of the available tools and strategies, particularly among “marginalised” populations.
WHO states that “nearly 1.5 million children” who were at high risk of illness and death from malaria in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi have received their first dose of the vaccine RTS,S/ASO1 as part of a pilot programme. The programme aims to increase equitable access to malaria prevention for the most vulnerable.
“If implemented broadly, WHO estimates that malaria vaccines could save the lives of tens of thousands of children each year.”
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO, hopes that “sustained investment and scaled-up efforts” will reach the most at risk.
“We have the tools to drive down malaria, a package of interventions that includes vector control, preventative medicines, testing, and treatment. These are joined by a safe and effective malaria vaccine.”
New weapons in the fight
WHO recently published new strategies and frameworks to address the threats presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, “converging humanitarian crises”, limited funding, poor surveillance, and declining effectiveness in malaria-fighting tools. Follow the links to read more about each of these:
- A strategy to contain antimalarial drug resistance in Africa
- An initiative to stop the spread of Anopheles stephensi in urban environments
- A framework in collaboration with UN-Habitat to guide city leaders in malaria control
- A toolkit to help countries assess their malaria surveillance systems and identify areas for investment
The future of malaria interventions
WHO emphasises that “continued investment” will be key to achieving the 2030 global malaria targets. A second malaria vaccine, the R21/Matrix-M (R21) vaccine could help close the gap between supply and demand, reducing child illness and death. WHO states that the “thorough and efficient expert review” of this vaccine for approval is a “priority”.
We know that earlier this month the vaccine was approved for use in Ghana for the first time, after data was shared with some African government bodies. As implementation continues to be a focus for the year ahead, how do you think WHO can improve this aspect of the campaign?