22 April 2022 | Statements

World Malaria Day: Unitaid drives forward equitable access to innovation to reduce the burden of malaria

Geneva, 22 April 2022 In advance of World Malaria Day, 25 April, global health agency Unitaid reaffirms its strong commitment to reducing the burden of malaria by improving access to critical innovations that prevent, diagnose, and treat the disease. 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic created new setbacks, the rate of progress in the fight against malaria had reached a plateau. Despite commendable efforts to quickly secure continuity of key malaria control services, global malaria deaths rose by 12% in 2020. 

The most significant burden of disease is increasingly being carried by a handful of countries where the situation is growing in severity. The World Health Organization reports that just 11 countries – all but one located in Africa – account for approximately 70% of all cases and deaths caused by malaria. And while many countries with lower rates of malaria progressed towards elimination targets despite the pandemic, the countries with the highest burdens lost ground.   

“The same troubling trend we have seen put so starkly in relief since the COVID-19 pandemic began has been quietly playing out in our efforts against malaria and other diseases for decades,” said Dr Philippe Duneton, Executive Director of Unitaid. “Quality innovations are slow to reach the countries that need them most and we see a divergence in global health responses, as higher income countries tackle challenges and move on, and interest and funding to extend efforts equitably wanes.” 

Much of the progress achieved over the past two decades was due, in large part, to the massive mobilization of funds and interventions, which helped cut deaths from malaria in half between the years 2000 and 2015. But as the number of countries facing acute crises decreased, so too did the galvanized efforts required to sustain and advance the fight. 

This World Malaria Day, the WHO has issued a call for greater investments and increased innovation to improve tools and approaches and reduce the burden of malaria. With more than US$330 million currently invested to optimize delivery, update tools, and test new strategies, Unitaid is advancing efforts to protect people everywhere from malaria. 

No single tool or strategy will solve the problem of malaria alone. Unitaid’s investments endeavor to increase access to the proven tools that work, while investing in developing new and updated products to build a more robust arsenal of malaria-fighting interventions. 

Unitaid is funding efforts to improve coverage of antimalarial preventive treatments for pregnant women and young children, who are most vulnerable to adverse events from infection. Through community interventions, the Unitaid-funded TIPTOP project demonstrated how to drastically increase the number of women reached with life-saving preventive treatment during pregnancy. And new investments launched last year are working to enhance delivery of preventive medicine that will reach more children with antimalarial protection over their first two years of life. 

More than two-thirds of all deaths from malaria occur in young children under five in Africa. With pilots co-funded by Unitaid, the Global Fund and GAVI, the world’s first malaria vaccine is being delivered to children as part of a comprehensive package of preventive care. 

Vector control, which targets disease spreading mosquitoes, is a highly effective and vital component of malaria elimination strategies. With investments into next-generation bed nets that combat growing mosquito resistance, new spatial repellents, and by treating humans and livestock with medicine that kills mosquitoes who bite them, Unitaid is driving progress to advance new and effective tools. 

And with work to improve screening and treatment for relapsing P. vivax malaria – the most common type of malaria outside of sub-Saharan Africa – Unitaid is helping improve care for people in Asia-Pacific and Latin American countries, including many that are close to elimination targets. 

The WHO global malaria strategy calls for a 90% global reduction of cases and death by 2030. Achieving this goal requires urgent global investment to support the development and deployment of crucial innovations to ensure people in all countries are protected from malaria.  


Media contact:

For more information and media requests:

Thalia Bayle

Communications officer

M: +41 79 660 56 37

baylet@unitaid.who.int

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