What a difference 15 years makes. In 2000 839,000 people died each year from Malaria. Last year, that figure was closer to 438,000 a 48% drop.
Today is World Malaria Day. And, though this is an international day dedicated to a horrible disease, there is good reason to think that humanity finally has the upper hand in the ages old battle against malaria.
These three charts, from the World Health Organization’s annual World Malaria Report show just how far we have come in defeating this horrible scourge.
The first demonstrates the precipitous decline of malaria incidence and death rates from the disease.
The second shows how malaria has declined in each region across the globe, with strong progress everywhere.
The third, shows that Malaria used to be the leading cause of death for kids under five in Africa. Now, it’s down to number 4.
It’s important to put this into context.
Humans have been around for 200,000 years. Malaria has killed them for about that long. And now, a disease that has plagued humanity and killed millions of us since the dawn of human existence is very firmly on the decline. And it all happened in the last 15 years. This is world-historic stuff.
How this happened
Malaria deaths declined so precipitously for the simple reason that political leaders decided in 2000 to make it so. They included malaria in the Millennium Development Goals and decided to invest in interventions against malaria.
Central to this all was money. Since 2000, funding for malaria treatment and control has increased twenty fold, to $2.7 billion this year. A big driver of these increases were the advent of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria in 2002 –essentially a giant pool of money to which philanthropies and governments contribute — and the creation of the Presidents Malaria Initiative, PMI, by the US government in 2005. When the money came, results followed.
Enter Steph Curry
The interventions that work the best are not too complicated. A study published September in the journal Nature finds that insecticide treated bed-nets account for 68% of malaria cases prevented since 2000. (The remainder were prevented by indoor insecticide spraying, and a malaria treatment called Artemisinin Control Therapy.)
This is where a living basketball legend comes in. Stephen Curry has long pledged to donate three anti-malaria bed nets for every three pointer he scores. And now, for World Malaria Day, he’s partnered with Nothing But Nets for a whole new campaign to boost the availability of bed nets around the world.
Humanity V. Malaria, a dramatic re-enactment
These interventions are not terribly expensive, at least compared to other diseases like AIDS. So this massive scaling up of funding has gone a long way, particularly for bed nets. A UN report says that since 2000, over 1 billion bed-nets have been distributed or sold throughout sub-saharan Africa alone.
Now, because of these efforts — from Curry and around the world — the dream of ending Malaria for good is looking more and more like an achievable reality.