Today The Lancet has published a study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle which uses a new model to estimate global malaria deaths.
The study estimates over 1.2 million lives were lost to malaria in 2010, almost twice the estimates used by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its most recent malaria report. Whilst both approaches maintain that the majority of lives lost to malaria are in Africa – which bears 91% of all deaths – and amongst young children. The difference in the IHME’s data is the assumption that higher numbers of older children and adults in heavy-burden malaria areas are dying from the disease.
Whilst the total numbers may be different, “however you look at it, far too many people are dying from malaria,” Professor David Schellenberg, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told the BBC.
But there is good news, as Annemarie Meyer, Programme and Policy Manager at Malaria No More UK explains: “the main trends reported by both the IHME and WHO reports highlight that international efforts to fight malaria are working with a consistent and significant reduction in malaria deaths since 2004. This progress is thanks to investments in efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria, we need to continue to press for more resources to sustain these gains and save more lives.”
Malaria No More UK spoke to a number of experts ahead of the publication of the study. Many of our own policy advisors have also been involved in reviewing and responding to the study data. It is important to note that global malaria data relies on estimates, as Lancet editor Richard Horton pointed out to the BBC this morning, “Right now we don’t actually have any reliable primary numbers for malaria deaths in some of the most malarious regions of the world, so what numbers we have come from estimates.”
Better disease diagnosis and surveillance is needed, ultimately, to remove the reliance on data modeling like these. As Professor David Schellenberg also told the BBC “The introduction of rapid diagnostic tests for malaria, recommended by the WHO in 2010 and increasingly available in endemic countries, affords an unprecedented opportunity to take the guesswork out of malaria diagnosis and to improve the reliability of information.”
Annemarie Meyer adds, “the WHO already recommends that essential malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment should be made available to both adults and children: we all agree that efforts need be increased to reach everyone at risk.”
It is critically important to sustaining and increasing efforts to combat this deadly disease. The IHME study’s authors emphasised the importance of sustaining and increasing efforts to combat malaria, and recognised the contribution of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria in achieving success so far. With international financing for malaria, and particularly funding for the Global Fund facing significant shortfalls in meeting the need, it is more important than ever to increase our efforts to sustain international support.
Malaria No More UK, along with the Global Poverty Project and a host of other organisations focussed on tackling HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria have been calling for increased funding for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB
and Malaria. We have been asking people to lend their voice to this campaign: to sign a petition and write to their MP to help persuade the British government to announce an increase in financial support for the Fund.
Join our campaign with the Global Poverty Project to help ‘Fund The Fund’ by adding your name to the petition on the right or sending a letter to your MP