The economic, social and human costs of malaria are tremendous. Every year, the disease infects 216 million people worldwide, and over half a million of those people die. The impact on communities can be staggering, stalling worker productivity and decimating family incomes. Since 2000, the global community has invested billions of dollars into a common goal of scaling up malaria control to end deaths in the worst-affected countries. Major progress has been made. Yet the question remains—once malaria is controlled—what next?
The Global Health Group's Malaria Elimination Initiative was launched in 2007 to accelerate progress in countries and regions that are paving the way to malaria eradication by pursuing achievable and evidence-based elimination goals.
In partnership with other forward-thinking researchers, implementers, and advocates, the Malaria Elimination Initiative works across global, regional and national levels to conduct operational research on surveillance and response, develop new tools and approaches for aggressive elimination, document and disseminate country experience, determine the costs of and financing needs for achieving elimination, build consensus, and influence policy and financing to foster an enabling environment to shrink the malaria map. The Malaria Elimination Initiative believes that global eradication of malaria is possible within a generation.
Since the early 1900s, the world has made great strides in "shrinking the malaria map." 108 countries have achieved the historic goal of eliminating malaria from within their borders. Since the Malaria Elimination Initiative started in 2007, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Costa Rica, Georgina, Iraq, Paraguay, Turkey, and Sri Lanka had reported zero malaria cases for less than 3 years. Today, 35 countries continue the fight to eliminate malaria within their borders.
The Malaria Elimination Initiative's mission is to continue this process, advocating for the progressive elimination of malaria and working inwards from the natural geographic margins of the disease. Working with a broad network of partners from around the world, the Malaria Elimination Initiative has helped to articulate a three-part strategy for eventual global eradication of malaria.
At a high-level, a three-part strategy to "shrink the malaria map" has been endorsed:
Part 1 focuses on the need for greatly strengthened and expanded malaria control in the malaria heartland to achieve low morbidity and mortality. The majority of deaths and disease from malaria occur in these tropical areas where the burden on the population and the economy is the greatest. Part 1 is the part of the overall strategy that rightly receives the most investment and attention.
Part 2 is an essential component to Part 1. Part 2 continues the historic process of progressively shrinking the malaria map. It reduces the number of countries that have to invest in fully developed malaria control programs. It prevents death and illness, decreases global incidence, and brings hope and opportunity to the countries in the malaria heartland, ensuring that they also will eventually eliminate malaria from within their borders. This is the part of the strategy which the Malaria Elimination Initiative focuses on.
Part 3 of the strategy, strongly supported by many government and private funders, is bringing forward new and improved tools to fight malaria. Although we can make much progress with today's tools, but we also need to continually develop improved tools and techniques and use them wisely and widely. For example, resistance by the malaria parasite to today's drugs will eventually develop, and new generations of drugs will be required. The same is true for mosquitoes and the insecticides that we use against them. Vaccines against malaria are also under development, and over the next decades, we should see the mobilization of several new and innovative tools.
It is important to note that all three components of this strategy are equally important and must happen simultaneously.
The Malaria Elimination Initiative is recognized across the global health community as a leader in understanding elimination in today's context. Working across global, regional and national levels with partner organizations including national malaria programs, we are pushing the boundaries of understanding on elimination, developing new tools, and advocating for greater attention and international support for malaria-eliminating countries. Our achievements include:
Through our collective efforts, current progress is well documented, requirements are much better understood, and new research is underway that will accelerate and increase the effectiveness of elimination efforts on all continents.