WHO's World Malaria Report: good news and areas of opportunity

Mother and child rest safely under a bed net.

Mother and child rest safely under a bed net.

There’s good news in the just-released World Health Organization’s World Malaria Report 2013! Global efforts to control and eliminate malaria have saved an estimated 3.3 million lives since 2000.

But there also are notes of caution in the report: the number of people at risk for malaria is up, insecticide-treated bed nets are not available widely enough, and access to diagnosis and treatment needs to be expanded.

At GSK, we’re actively addressing these needs through a comprehensive and collaborative approach to fighting malaria.

Research for new medicines and vaccines against malaria is one area of focus. The RTS,S vaccine we’re developing in partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) is the most advanced vaccine candidate of its kind.

We also provide our existing anti-malarial medicines at deeply-discounted prices in malaria-susceptible areas.

A third focus of our malaria work happens with local communities through our Africa Malaria Partnership. We recently awarded four grants—a donation of $1.6 million over three years—to mobilize community health workers, encourage preventive measures and address the needs of pregnant women and young children. These interventions align closely to the WHO concerns.

Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to malaria, as pregnancy reduces a woman’s immunity. For the unborn child, maternal malaria increases the risk of spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, premature delivery and low birth weight - leading causes of child mortality. We will work with Save the Children to reduce the number of women and newborn children dying in some of Kenya’s neediest communities.

In Nigeria, we are working with The Carter Center to bring together malaria and neglected tropical disease (NTD) interventions. 

Our partnership in southern Tanzania with AMREF uses community health workers (CHWs) to raise awareness of maternal, newborn and child health among community members and encourage community members to seek care at the health facility.

With FHI 360 in central Ghana, local partners work with community-based groups such as Mothers against Malaria Clubs, which conduct door-to-door advocacy campaigns to encourage use of long lasting insecticide-treated nets. They also build capacity to help identify and refer serious malaria cases.

The number of lives saved from malaria thus far is encouraging. But we know that great need remains and will take many companies, nonprofits and governments working together to fight malaria.  With the help of organizations like Save the Children, The Carter Center, AMREF and FHI360 we hope to keep making a difference.