The theme for this year’s World Malaria Day – End Malaria for Good – says it all. Malaria is preventable and curable; we must now commit that no one should die for want of a $3 mosquito net or three days’ worth of medicine.
More countries than ever before are within striking distance of malaria elimination. In Cambodia, where the threat of drug resistance looms large, there was only one malaria death in 2016. Across sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease takes its heaviest toll, by 2015 more than half the people at risk slept under a treated net. Sri Lanka achieved elimination in 2016 – providing new hope for tropical countries. Paraguay and Algeria are on the cusp. The World Health Organization has designated 21 countries the E-2020 – those with the potential to reach elimination by the end of the decade.
More than an opportunity, elimination is now an imperative. The rise of drug resistance compels us to act with urgency. “Cambodia is the epicenter for multi-drug resistance, the most dangerous type of malaria,” says Mr. Naeem Durrani, program coordinator for UNOPS, which manages the Global Fund’s Regional Artemisinin-resistance Initiative (RAI) grant in Cambodia. “We cannot afford to see its further spreading, which would make malaria control absolutely impossible.”
The progress against malaria is a global health success story, but any let-up before the finish line could unleash worldwide drug resistance and pose a major threat to health security worldwide – even in places that are currently malaria-free. The human and economic costs could be enormous.
Our feature story from Cambodia takes you on a journey to The Edge of Elimination.