The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported progress in eradicating malaria has slowed with the total number of cases and related deaths remaining relatively unchanged in recent years.
A perfect storm combination of funding shortages and the COVID-19 pandemic is being blamed for the backwards step, and the WHO is now warning additional deaths could result due to the delay.
Responding to the latest World Malaria Report, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries and global health leaders to ensure vital funding and research into the preventable and treatable disease continues.
The Director-General said: “It is time for leaders across Africa – and the world – to rise once again to the challenge of malaria, just as they did when they laid the foundation for the progress made since the beginning of this century.
“Through joint action, and a commitment to leaving no one behind, we can achieve our shared vision of a world free of malaria.”
Dr Tedros was speaking as the report revealed the annual number of malaria cases has remained static for the last four years, while the number of malaria-related deaths had only fallen by 2,000 between 2018 and 2019.
The study further noted that the 2020 target for reductions in malaria cases will be missed by 37 per cent with the mortality reduction target reduced by 22 per cent.
The report also highlighted concerns over Coronavirus and its potential to divert or even drain much-needed funding for critical malaria research and vaccine manufacture with a funding shortfall in the region of $2.6bn identified in 2019 alone.
Similar concerns have been raised by a raft of charities and organisations representing other illnesses and diseases with medical research, seasonal flu vaccine supplies and outpatient services all being reportedly disrupted by the pandemic with service delays and reduced funding being identified as key impacts.
Huge developments and progress have been and continue to be made in all fields of medical research and treatment. This momentum must continue, and funding and research continue in tandem with the vital ongoing work to tackle Covid-19.
Covid-19 is an enormous threat but so too is apathy to other forms of illness. The work and advancement in dealing with them must not be allowed to stagnate.
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