GENEVA, July 11 (Xinhua) -- The Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership recently released its new strategies to guide global efforts toward malaria elimination targets, an ambition aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are set to be implemented at the end of this year, saying China is on track to eradicate malaria by 2020.
This comes amid promising public health statistics which indicate that there has been a 58 percent reduction of malaria mortality and over 6,2 million deaths averted since 2001.
Complementing the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030, RBM's Action and Investment to Defeat Malaria 2016-2030 comes at a critical juncture for the global fight against the potentially fatal disease.
"This is the first time that something like this has happened, as we want to show that the malaria community is working closely together to take on the challenges of the unfinished agenda," said WHO Global Malaria Program Director Pedro Alonso.
China, whose target is to eliminate malaria by 2020, has not only reported a dramatic decline in malaria cases over the last decades, but also played a pivotal role in global disease-control efforts.
"China has made a wonderful contribution to malaria-control by making Artemisia annua, through which Artemisinin combination therapy has been developed, available to the world," RBM Executive Director Fatoumata Nafo-Traore told Xinhua.
Artemisinin, also known as Qinghaosu, was first isolated from the Chinese traditional plant Artemisia by Chinese scientists, and the drug is currently the most effective at combating malaria, a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes.
According to experts, China, along with Cambodia and Vietnam, is set to eliminate malaria by 2020, while other countries of the Greater Mekong region are expected to eradicate the disease by 2025.
China's recent efforts together with unprecedented global achievements are a good starting point for WHO's ambition to reduce malaria case incidence and deaths by 90 percent while eliminating the disease in at least an additional 35 countries by 2030.
"Never before, not even in the first eradication campaign of the late 1950s, have we seen such breadth and depth in the disease reduction, with a fall of disease incidence of 37 percent, and a reduction of 69 percent of under-five mortality in African children," Alonso highlighted.
Despite these trends, WHO estimates that there will be 214 million cases of malaria infection in 2015, resulting in 472,000 deaths from a disease which is both preventable and treatable.
"60 million malaria cases still go undiagnosed and untreated, and 50 percent of populations at risk in Africa do not have access to life-saving bed-nets," added Alonso.
According to estimates, more than 100 billion U.S. dollars is needed over the next 15 years to achieve 2030 targets, while an additional 10 billion dollars is required to fund the research and development of new tools such as drugs and insecticides.
Nafo-Traore emphasised the importance of prevention through bed-nets, indoor spraying, and integrated vector management approaches, as well as rapid diagnostic tests for all patients with suspected malaria.
"Malaria is not only a health issue, it is an issue for development," she said, adding that for every dollar invested in the fight against malaria, a 40 dollar return is to be expected.
"Investing to achieve the new 2030 malaria goals will avert nearly 3 billion malaria cases and save over 10 million lives," said Nafo-Traore, while highlighting the economic incentives as the world is expected to generate an additional 4 trillion dollars over the 15 year timeframe.
World leaders are to discuss both WHO's and RBM's strategies during the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, starting on July 13.