GENEVA: Malaria deaths worldwide have fallen by 60 percent since 2000, the UN said, with improved diagnostic tests and the massive distribution of mosquito nets aiding dramatic progress against the disease.
Fifteen years ago, an estimated 262 million malaria cases killed nearly 840,000 people.
Projections for 2015 indicate that some 214 million cases are likely to cause 438,000 deaths, according to a joint report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF).
“Global malaria control is one of the great public health success stories of the past 15 years,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said.
Had malaria infection and death rates remained unchanged since 2000, another 6.2 million people would have died, according to the report.
“We can beat this ancient killer,” Chan added in a statement, while noting that children under five still make up the overwhelming majority of malaria victims.
Most of the gains were recorded in Asia and the Caucasus, but in Africa the picture was less encouraging.
Sub-Saharan nations accounted for nearly 80 percent of global malaria deaths this year and efforts to curb infection rates in the region lagged substantially behind other parts of the world.
Chan and UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake warned that because of this “uneven” progress, more attention and resources had to be paid to the hardest hit nations.
“Eliminating malaria on a global scale is possible — but only if we overcome these barriers and accelerate progress,” Lake and Chan said in a joint statement.