The World Health Organization has warned that the 2020 global target of reducing malaria cases by 40 percent may be sidelined citing progress in controlling the vector-borne disease has stalled.

Urgent action is necessary to achieve the goal, the United Nations health agency declared.

Malaria, caused by parasites, is transmitted through the bite of infected female anopheles mosquitoes. It is preventable and curable.

WHO noted that compared to data from 2015, there were 5 million more malaria cases reported in 2016, bringing the total to 216 million. Nearly half the number succumbed, according to the World Malaria Report 2017. Deaths in both years were nearly the same.

The WHO African Region accounted for 90 percent of malaria cases worldwide, and 91 percent of malaria deaths.

"In recent years, we have made major gains in the fight against malaria," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus rued. "We are now at a turning point. Without urgent action, we risk going backwards and missing the global malaria targets for 2020 and beyond."

The organization identified lack of funding as a major roadblock.

"A major problem is insufficient funding at both domestic and international levels, resulting in major gaps in coverage of insecticide-treated nets, medicines, and other life-saving tools," it said, citing decreased financial donations by the United States, United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, France, Germany, and Japan.

The health agency further noted there are common and effective ways to prevent malaria such as sleeping under insecticide-treated bed nets and spraying indoor walls with insecticides. Unfortunately, the rate of prevention success using these two methods have reportedly declined.

The report revealed a "steep drop in the number of people protected from malaria" through insecticide spraying, from an estimated 180 million in 2010 to just 100 million six years after with the largest reductions in the African region.
 
WHO Director of the Global Malaria Programme, Dr Pedro Alonso, said the 2017 report will hopefully serve as a wake-up call for the global health community.

Dr Alonso underscored that meeting global malaria targets can only be possible with greater investment and expanded coverage of core tools that prevent, diagnose, and treat malaria. MIMS

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