Seventy-five percent of malaria cases have been reduced in 57 of the 106 countries with malaria, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report released on Dec 9. The organisation says that this signals the progress toward malaria elimination.

“Since the start of this century, investments in malaria prevention and treatment have averted over 6 million deaths,” Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, said in a press release. “We know what works. The challenge now is to do even more.”

The report states that malaria-caused deaths have decreased by 85 percent in Southeast Asian countries, 72 percent in the Americas, 65 percent in the western Pacific region and 64 percent in the eastern Mediterranean region. Over the last 15 years, mortality rates in the African region decreased to 66 percent among all ages and 71 percent, specifically, among children below the age of five.

“In sub-Saharan Africa, more than half of the population is now sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets, compared to just 2% in 2000,” Chan said. “A rapid expansion in diagnostic testing, and in the availability of antimalarial medicines, has allowed many more people to access timely and appropriate treatment.”

Over sub-Saharan Africa, areas where malaria hit the hardest, the prevention of new cases of malaria saved an estimated US$900 million (more than AUD$1.24 billion) in case management costs between 2001 and 2014. Mosquito nets treated with insecticide, artemisinin-based combination treatment and indoor residual spraying have helped contribute to this massive savings.

However, new challenges are occurring. Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO’s global malaria programme, warned that mosquito resistance to insecticides challenges further progress.

“In many countries, progress is threatened by the rapid development and spread of mosquito resistance to insecticides,” Alonso claimed. “Drug resistance could also jeopardise recent gains in malaria control.”

Approximately 3.2 billion people around the world are still at risk of contracting malaria. In 2015, 214 million new cases were reported. Malaria is not endemic in Australia, but Australians can still catch the disease when travelling to tropical regions in Asia, Africa and Central or South America.

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