WHO’s global strategy for malaria is updated

Feb. 1, 2021

Representatives from malaria-affected countries and partner organizations gathered on January 28 in a World Health Organization (WHO) virtual forum to share feedback and perspectives on the global technical strategy for malaria 2016-2030. Input will be reflected in an updated strategy, which will be published in June 2021.

The 15-year WHO strategy – adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2015 – is designed to guide and support all countries working to control and eliminate malaria. It sets four global targets for 2030, as well as interim milestones to track progress. 

As reported in the most recent edition of the World malaria report, progress towards two of the strategy’s 2020 milestones is off course: reducing global mortality rates and case incidence by at least 40 percent. The two other milestones focused on country-level elimination and prevention of re-establishment of malaria will likely be reached.

Despite the remarkable gains seen in driving down malaria cases and deaths over the last two decades, progress in recent years has levelled off, and many high burden countries are losing ground. The emergence of the COVID-pandemic in 2020 has posed a serious additional challenge to malaria responses worldwide. Urgent and concerted action is needed to change the global trajectory of the disease.

Addressing participants in the webinar, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, noted that while meeting the strategy’s 2030 targets would be a challenge, malaria-endemic countries and partners must remain firm in their commitment to achieving them.

“None of these challenges are simple, but none are insurmountable,” said Dr. Tedros. “Together, we have already overcome many difficulties in the fight against malaria. And together, we can rise to the challenges we face now, and realize our shared vision of a malaria-free world.”

The updated strategy is fully aligned with WHO’s 13th General Program of Work (2019-2023) and Triple Billion targets, as well as with the Sustainable Development Goals and the global universal health coverage (UHC) agenda, a key driver of the Organization’s work worldwide. It calls better integration of malaria services into broader health delivery systems and the strengthened capacity of countries to generate, analyze and use malaria-related data. The revised strategy also calls for the inclusion of malaria control in Health-in-All-Policies, with the aim of facilitating a multi-sector sectoral response.

The strategy’s five guiding principles will be reordered to place a greater emphasis on the critical role of country ownership. A 6th principle will be added to reflect that successful malaria responses are underpinned by resilient health systems. Other guiding principles focus on the need for strong surveillance systems, equity in access to health services, innovation in tools and approaches, and interventions that are tailored to local conditions.

“We are moving squarely away from a ‘one-size fits all’ strategy to a more tailored, data-driven approach,” said Dr. Pedro Alonso, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Program, as he presented the proposed updates. “It’s about identifying the people who suffer most and bear the brunt of the disease, and then making a purposeful effort to reach them with the services they need.” This approach will help maximize available resources by ensuring efficiency, effectiveness and equity in malaria responses, he added.

All stakeholders can continue to share their feedback on the strategy in the coming weeks by sending a message to: [email protected]. Consultations with key partners will continue over the next few months, culminating in a final review of the updated strategy by the WHO MPAG. The strategy will be shared with Member States for review at the Seventy-fourth World Health Assembly in May and will be published the following month.

WHO has the release.