Published on April 25, 2024

In 2024, the only way is forward in the fight to end malaria

Most of us get into the world of advocacy and campaigning to change history and make the world a better place – forever.

In reality, the chances we get as campaigners to make that mark can be rare.

But in 2024, in the long fight to end malaria, that is not the case.

New tools and innovations have presented us with a golden opportunity to drastically reduce the deaths, devastation and misery caused by a disease that still claims the life of one child every minute of every day and remains one of the highest causes of death in low-income countries.

Take immunisation, for example;  in 2024 the RTS,S malaria vaccine has started to be rolled out to young children in endemic countries. It has been administered to more than 2 million children in Africa and this year will begin wide scale rollout alongside the second (‘R21’) vaccine.

In order to be most effective, we know vaccines need to be used alongside other treatments, such as next-generation bed nets which have been treated with a new insecticide to overcome mosquito resistance and have protected over 60 million people so far.

Or antimalarials like ‘seasonal malarial chemoprevention’ which protects 50 million children every year ahead of peaks in malaria infections.

Collectively The World Health Organization estimates that malaria interventions have contributed to the prevention of 2.1bn cases and 11.7m deaths between 2000 and 2022.

These are big numbers and they should inspire us, because the scale of the challenge we face in reducing malaria by 90% to reach Sustainable Development Goal 3.3 by 2030 is not to be underestimated.

We know as campaigners that no route to change is a straight line, and malaria is no different.

As we all know, Covid-19 claimed the lives of millions around the world and disrupted progress in the fight against malaria,  which  even before the pandemic, was beginning to stall.

And now, as climate change accelerates, changing temperatures, more variable rainy seasons, extreme weather events and moving populations will make malaria more unpredictable and hit vulnerable populations harder.

Meanwhile,  ongoing geopolitical and economic instability shake the foundations of decision making and can give policymakers fewer levers to pull on.

But on World Malaria Day, these should not be thought of as barriers to further action on malaria, but reasons to run towards it at this critical moment.

Because if we take our foot off the accelerator now, the progress we’ve made, halving the mortality rate between 2000 and 2019, risks being lost as we start to roll back down the hill.

Instead, these challenges must galvanise us and act as a catalyst for policymakers.

We need Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to be fully funded so they can coordinate investment and logistical efforts like never before to ensure vaccines achieve the impact we know they can.

Alongside vaccines, we need to ensure the wider toolbox of innovations, like next-generation bed nets and new antimalarials, reach the children that need them most.

And we must ensure these ground-breaking interventions and treatments keep coming by maintaining a robust research and development (R&D) pipeline to help combat a disease that is in part so effective because it’s so adaptable. 

Not only would this effort save millions of lives, but it can build resilience to climate change, assist with tracking other infectious diseases, and allow economic growth to flourish.

Find out what you can do to end malaria by checking out  the Zero Malaria Change the Story’ campaign, featuring Zero Malaria Ambassadors The Ghetto Kids and David Beckham.

Author: Dr Astrid Bonfield, CEO of Malaria No More UK