Malaria initiative closes in on a child killer

Group of smiling children with thatched hut and trees in background (USAID)
A U.S. program assists in protecting these Kenyan children and their families from malaria infection. (USAID)

Approximately 4.3 million people — most of them African children — are alive today because they didn’t get, or didn’t succumb to, malaria.

For more than 10 years, a campaign against this parasitic disease saved those lives with money, work and commitment. Now the international partners who delivered those results have set a higher goal: End malaria by 2050.

The President’s Malaria Initiative Strategy (PMI) 2015–2020 outlines these achievements and goals. The PMI, launched by former President George W. Bush, is one of the organizations at the forefront of the anti-malaria campaign, along with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the World Bank Malaria Booster Program; and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Maps of Africa and Southeast Asia showing countries receiving malaria aid (President's Malaria Initiative)
This map shows countries receiving aid from the President’s Malaria Initiative.

To battle roughly 200 million cases annually, goals for the next five years include reducing malaria deaths by one-third from the current level (about 600,000 each year) and reducing malaria occurrence by 40 percent in PMI’s 19 targeted African countries and the Greater Mekong area.

If those short-term goals can be met, malaria could be eradicated by 2050.

Before celebrating, consider this warning in the PMI report:

“While the progress to date is historic, the continued control and ultimate elimination of malaria remains fraught with serious challenges.”

The parasite that causes malaria is building a resistance to the artemisinin family of drugs that have been effective in saving lives. Another hazard is the wide availability of substandard and counterfeit malaria treatments, which promote further resistance in the parasite.

Fortunately, more effective anti-malarial tools are scaling up at the same time. Longer-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets have gone from labs to homes. Better mosquito-stopping insecticides and drug therapies also are becoming more widely available.