Reality Check: Global Malaria Trends, 2000-2010

Source:  NIPCC

World Malaria Programme. 2011. World Malaria Report: 2011. World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 246 pp.

One of the concerns related to global warming is that it may increase the prevalence of malaria. Much of this is based on models and model results. Accordingly, it is useful to check in with the real world to verify whether death and disease from malaria is expanding.

Here we check on recent real world trends on malaria as compiled by the World Malaria Programme in its latest annual report. This Programme operates out of the World Health Organization. Among other things, it tracks trends in death and disease from malaria, developments in financing, vector surveillance, control, and malaria prevention and treatment, and progress toward targets and goals that have been adopted by the international community. These targets include reducing by 2015, malaria deaths to near zero, and incidence by 75% from the 2000 level.

The latest report is based on information from 106 countries where malaria is endemic.

The report estimates that globally:
1. There were 655,000 deaths from malaria in 2010 from 216 million episodes in 2010.
2. 91% of deaths and 81% of the episodes were in the African Region.
3. Malaria death rates declined by 26% from 2000 to 2010. Malaria incidence declined by 17%.
4. These improvements are attributed to human interventions, including greater use of insecticide treated bednets, indoor residual spraying, rapid diagnostic tests, and artemisinin-based combination therapies.
5. International funding for malaria control rose to $2 billion in 2011. It is unclear how much domestic (that is, non-international) funding is devoted to malaria. However, the latter is much less than the $2 billion annually.
6. About $5 billion per year is needed for 2010-15 in order to meet the above noted targets and goals, that is, there is a maximum shortfall of around $3 billion per year.

What it implies:
1. That deaths from malaria and its prevalence is highest in the African region suggests that malaria is associated with poverty, which is consistent with the results of numerous other studies that have found socioeconomic development to be more important than climate/weather in determining malaria prevalence and mortality (e.g., Tol and Dowlatabadi, 2001; Bosello et al., 2006; Beguin et al., 2011). In other words, it is more important to pursue economic development rather than reductions in climate change.
2. Since reductions in cases and deaths from malaria are a result of human intervention, this indicates that its incidence and deaths are more sensitive to human actions than to changes in climate/weather.
3. Considering that death and disease from malaria are real while the impacts of climate change are hypothetical, and $3 billion per year is a trifle compared to the $100 billion per year that developing countries were trying to obtain from industrialized countries, raises the possibility that international priorities are skewed.

Additional References
Béguin, A., Hales, S., Rocklöv, J., Åström, C., Louis, V.R. and Sauerborn, R. 2011. The opposing effects of climate change and socio-economic development on the global distribution of malaria. Global Environmental Change 21: 1209-1214.

Bosello, F., Roson, R. and Tol, R.S.J. 2006. Economy-wide estimates of the implications of climate change: human health. Ecological Economics 58: 579-591.

Tol, R.S.J. and Dowlatabadi, H. 2001. Vector-borne diseases, development & climate change. Integrated Assessment 2: 173-181.