2013 World Malaria Report Finds Remarkable Progress Since 2000; ‘Room for Improvement’ in Prevention of Malaria in Pregnancy

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By: Sarah Blake, MHTF consultant

This year’s World Malaria Report finds that both incidence and deaths attributed to malaria have declined sharply since 2000. The report finds that as coverage of critical preventive and treatment measures has expanded over the past decade, global malaria mortality rates have decreased by 45 percent and incidence rates have declined by 29 percent. These measures have contributed to major gains in child survival, with deaths among children under the age of 5 declining by 54 percent since 2000. In fact, according to the report, of an estimated 3.3 million deaths averted since 2000, 3 million have been children living in sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest burden of malaria. At the same time,   the report also highlights a need for accelerated action.

As WHO Director General Margaret Chan’s wrote in her foreword to the report:

 The currently available funding is far less than required to reach universal access to malaria interventions. To achieve our goal, we need an accelerated effort in scaling up vector control tools. We also need to ensure that the most vulnerable groups – children under five, infants and pregnant women – get access to WHO-recommended intermittent preventive therapies, where appropriate. While progress in expanding diagnostic testing and quality-assured treatment has been immense in recent years, we are far from achieving universal access.

Among the priorities that the report highlights for is in expanding coverage of key preventive measures for pregnant women, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The report finds that although overall, progress toward expanding coverage of insecticide-treated nets has faltered in recent years, pregnant women are still more likely to sleep under an insecticide-treated mosquito net than the general public. As of 2012, 36 countries in high and medium-burden countries in sub-Saharan Africa had endorsed intermittent preventive therapy as an element of antenatal care. However, coverage of intermittent preventive therapy in pregnancy (IPTp), remains a challenge, with few women  receiving the number of doses recommended under the WHO’s current guidelines, which advise provision of IPTp at each of the four recommended antenatal care visits. In fact, the report found that IPTp was provided at just 18 percent of ANC visits where it was recommended.

From the report:

Among African countries reporting this information to WHO, the median percentage of pregnant women attending antenatal care (ANC) who received at least one dose of intermittent preventive treatment (IPT) during pregnancy in 2012 was 64%, whereas 38% received at least two doses and 23% received at least three doses, indicating that there is considerable scope for improving protection for pregnant women.

To read more on this year’s World Malaria Report, visit the WHO’s dedicated page, which includes country profiles, background information and fact sheets on highlights from the report.