Twenty-one countries, including 6 African nations hit hard by the disease, have the potential to be malaria-free by 2020, World Health Organization (WHO) estimated in World Malaria Day report released on Monday.
The "Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030," approved by the World Health Assembly in 2015, calls for the elimination of local transmission of malaria in at least 10 nations by 2020. WHO estimates that 21 countries are in a position to achieve this goal, including six nations in African Region, where the burden of the disease is heaviest.
In 2015, all countries in WHO European Region reported, for the first time, zero indigenous cases of malaria, down from 90,000 cases in 1995. Outside this area, eight countries reported zero cases of the disease in 2014: United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Morocco, Argentina, Costa Rica, Oman, Paraguay and Sri Lanka. Another eight countries each tallied fewer than 100 indigenous malaria cases in 2014 and a further 12 countries reported between 100 and 1000 indigenous malaria cases in 2014.
Malaria mortality rates have decreased since 2000 by 60 percent worldwide. In the WHO African Region, malaria mortality rates declined by 66 percent among all age groups and by 71 percent among children under five years.
The advances came through the use of core malaria control tools that have been extensively deployed over the last decade: artemisinin-based combination therapies, insecticide-treated bed-nets, indoor residual spraying and rapid diagnostic testing.
However, approximately half of the world's population, 3.2 billion people, remains at risk of malaria. In 2015, 214 million new cases of malaria were reported in 95 countries and more than 400 000 people died of malaria.