Shrinking the Malaria Map

UCSF Global Health Group’s Malaria Elimination Initiative (MEI)

The Economist doubles down on malaria progress and challenges

14 October 2014

In two October 10 articles, The Economist explored the potential for global malaria eradication in our lifetimes. Citing the fall of malaria deaths by nearly a half since 2000 (from 850,000 deaths per year to currently about 450,000), Eradicating disease focused on three big improvements in the last several decades which argue for the feasibility of pursuing eradication of malaria and a handful of other parasitic and viral diseases. These improvements include more connected communications (through the use of mobile phones and the internet and more comprehensive road networks); better medical technology (with reference to the promise of genetic engineering and the present day value of artemisinin for drug resistance in malaria); and strong political attention to transmissible diseases (largely wrought through the global fight against AIDS).

In Breaking the fever, Swaziland was featured as the first sub-Saharan African country that is close to becoming malaria-free. Such stories of substantial progress support the WHO's Global Technical Strategy milestone of a 90% decrease in malaria cases and deaths by 2030. Of course, significant and emerging challenges remain – particularly around funding for malaria which must triple to $8.7 billion annually by 2030. Increased financing is required to support new applications of existing treatments, novel treatments, and better diagnosis and surveillance. Providing a real world example of possibilities for improved surveillance, the article described the UCSF Global Health Group Malaria Elimination Initiative's collaborative work with Google Earth Engine in developing a risk mapping tool to predict specific geographic areas that should be targeted for malaria interventions.