World Malaria Day 2016: Significant Gains, Closing the Gaps

Malaria is no longer the leading cause of death among children in sub-Saharan Africa and the proportion of children infected with malaria parasites has been cut in half in endemic areas of Africa since 2000. [1] Across the continent, the prevention of new cases of malaria – attributable to control activities such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets, improved access to diagnostics and medications, and indoor spraying – saved nearly $1 billion USD in case management costs between 2001 and 2014. [2]

Global malaria deaths have been reduced by 60% between 2000 and 2015, saving about 6.2 million lives of which nearly six million were children under the age of five. [3,4] Despite progress made in combatting malaria, gaps remain in malaria prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, particularly in endemic areas of Africa. Of the 214 million malaria cases and 438,000 malaria deaths in 2015, sub-Saharan Africa disproportionately represents 88% of cases and 90% of deaths. [5]

As World Malaria Day is recognised on 25 April, uniting health stakeholders under the theme “End Malaria for Good,” it is important to acknowledge that malaria remains a significant public health problem. [6] Additional resources and sustained political commitment are needed to meet the 2030 global malaria targets: reducing malaria case incidence by at least 90%; reducing malaria mortality rates by at least 90%; eliminating malaria in at least 35 countries; and preventing a resurgence of malaria in all countries that are malaria-free. [7]

Malaria_texthighlightLaboratory systems and diagnostic technologies are a critical pillar in the fight against malaria. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends diagnostic testing for all people with suspected malaria before treatment is administered. Over the past ten years, health facilities in sub-Saharan Africa have scaled-up malaria testing services, providing diagnosis via conventional microscopy and rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), which are now widely available in many settings. [8] According to WHO, a sharp increase in diagnostic testing for malaria was reported in the African Region: from 36% of suspected malaria cases in 2005 to 65% of suspected cases in 2014. [9]

“Unless the remaining diagnostic gaps are addressed through continued laboratory capacity-building, use of molecular techniques, and enhanced health service delivery, victory against malaria may remain elusive,” says Prof. Ogobara Doumbo, Director of the Malaria Research and Training Center, Mali. “Laboratories hold an important key for not only providing an accurate diagnosis, but also to understanding malaria epidemiology, detecting and characterising malaria species and drug resistance, and discovering more efficacious treatments.”

“ASLM strives to advocate for and advance the understanding that conventional and point-of-care diagnostics are indispensable to malaria elimination programmes,” shares Dr. Trevor Peter, ASLM Chair. “To maintain progress made in malaria control, ASLM is working to bridge remaining gaps by promoting greater political commitment for health systems strengthening and supporting quality improvement for medical and research laboratories across Africa.”

By: Job Mogire, Corey White; Contributor: Ogobara Doumbo


[1] WHO. (2015, December). World Malaria Report 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2016, from

[2] WHO. (2015, December). Fact Sheet: World Malaria Report 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2016, from

[3] Global Fund. (2016, March 23). The global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Retrieved 25 March 2016, from,_but_Challenges_Remain/

[4] WHO. (2015, December 9). Fact Sheet: World Malaria Report 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2016 from

[5] WHO. (2016, January). Malaria: Fact Sheet. Retrieved 5 April 2016 from

[6] World Malaria Day (2016). 2016 Theme: Many Voices, A Single Theme. Retrieved 27 March 2016 from

[7] WHO. (2016, January). The Global Technical Strategy for Malaria. Retrieved 15 April 2016, from

[8] CDC. (2015, October 17). Diagnosis and Treatment of Malaria in the Malaria-Endemic World. Retrieved from

[9] WHO. (2015, December). Fact Sheet: World Malaria Report 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2016, from