There has been a lot of hype about the recently released malaria eradication report that acknowledges the earlier mid-20th century attempt at eradication was a noble but flawed initiative.
The report, on its part, highlights why eradication should now be considered seriously and why the ambitious undertaking is necessary and achievable.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease which, according to WHO, saw nearly half of the world's population at risk of the disease in 2017. While most malaria cases and deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, the WHO regions of South-East Asia, Eastern Mediterranean, Western Pacific, and the Americas at being under risk as well.
A report published in The Citizen, sees retired MUHAs professor Zulfiqaralu Premji say that while global funding has increased from USD 1.5 billion in 2000 to USD 4.3 billion in 2016, it is a gross increase and not a net increase. He further points out that malaria endemic countries have decrease from 106 to 86, but none from hotspots in sub-Saharan Africa. Professor Premji states that the report does not indicate the proportional decrease in anti-malarial medication consumed.
It report mentions three main threats -- inadequate use of data to inform strategies, poorly incentivised staff and disengaged communities.
According to Professor Premji, malaria eradication by 2050 is wishful thinking because some of the major threats to malaria control and eradication have either not been addressed or have been tackled superficially.
He mentions that sub-Saharan African countries are currently faced with a serious epidemic of non-communicable diseases and thus, in reality, there is the ongoing burden of infectious diseases and now a serious burden of NCDs.
According to the professor, the burden of NCDs is expensive and expecting financially poor countries to contribute 75 percent of finances for malaria eradication is unrealistic.
The next threat, according to him, is climate change. Malaria transmission is an intricate function of climatic factors, he states, adding that it non-linearly affects the development of vectors and parasites.
According to him, every year, millions of people across the globe are driven from their homes by floods, storms and other natural calamities. With adverse effects of global climate change causing extreme weather, growing food insecurity and rising sea levels, the number of mosquito-borne diseases can only rise.
Further, he opines that with no alternative for fossil fuel around the corner, the adverse effects of climate change will see a rise in malaria and other fatal epidemics.
The professor says that the next emerging threat is Ebola fever and Dengue fever, with the latter already hitting East Africa hard. According to him, these emerging and unpredictable infections come with a great financial cost which is an added burden on countries with constricted health budgets.
The professor questions the emerging tools that are being greatly promoted, stating that scientific evidence (which, according to him, is lacking) is the only way of validation. The professor concludes that the only way of eradicating malaria is by the international community focusing on poverty reduction.