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World Malaria Day 2019: Zero malaria starts with me

World Malaria Day POLHN 2019

World Malaria Day is celebrated on 25 April, with the aim of highlighting the need for continued commitment toward malaria prevention, control, and elimination. This year’s theme is “Zero malaria starts with me”.

Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease. After more than 10 years of significant headway in the fight against malaria, progress has halted. An estimated 435,000 people died of malaria in 2017 according to the World Health Organization (WHO); this represents virtually the same number as the year before. The number of malaria cases globally was 219 million.

Now, urgent action is needed to bring the global malaria response back on track. That is why this year’s campaign of “Zero malaria starts with me” is highlighting the importance of country ownership and community empowerment when it comes to malaria prevention and care. This grassroots campaign aims to ensure that malaria remains high on the political agenda, mobilise resources and empower communities to take responsibility for the prevention and care of malaria.

Progress in the Western Pacific

World Malaria Day POLHN 2019

There has been a 47% increase in malaria cases and a 43% increase in malaria deaths in the WHO Western Pacific region between 2015 and 2017. Considering malaria is preventable and treatable, these numbers represent the urgency for more political and grassroots focus on the disease.

The increased instances of malaria in the region are largely due to outbreaks in the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Cambodia, jointly accounting for 92% of the disease burden. Conversely, significant progress was made in some parts of the region since then; for example, Cambodia has reported zero deaths from malaria in 2018.

With the aim of further progress in this domain, WHO has implemented the Regional Action Framework for Malaria Control and Elimination in the Western Pacific 2016-2020. This emphasises the need to increase progress via the deployment of interventions based on strengthened surveillance systems.

Engaging with all levels of society

This year’s “Zero malaria starts with me” campaign aims to get the ball rolling again on the fight against malaria, which means involving all members of society. This could be private companies that stand to benefit from a malaria-free workforce, politicians that have power in government policies and decision-making, healthcare providers actively working to prevent and treat malaria, and most importantly affected communities. In particular, urgent action is needed in the highest burden countries that are most affected by malaria.

The time to take action on malaria is now. "Zero malaria starts with me" and ends with everyone.