Kenya cuts malaria budget by 20% after new infections drop

President Uhuru Kenyatta addressing delegates of the Malaria Summit in London the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.Photo PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta addressing delegates of the Malaria Summit in London the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.Photo PSCU

Kenya reduced its funding for malaria control by 20 per cent in the last three years on account of declining infections.

The World Health Organization in a new report says between 2014 and 2017 Kenya’s funding for malaria went down by 20 per cent. Kenya’s malaria prevalence has dropped from 12 per cent in 2012 to the current five per cent.

The report released on Monday also identifies Kenya to be among countries with low malaria reporting rates. The report however calls for increased investment in malaria control across the world.

“The incidence rate of malaria declined globally between 2010 and 2017, from 72 to 59 cases per 1,000 population at risk. Although this represents an 18 per cent reduction over the period, the number of cases per 1,000 population at risk has stood at 59 for the past 3 years,” the latest World Malaria Report 2018, shows.

Malaria incidence rate in the WHO African region remained at 219 cases per 1,000 population at risk for the second year in a row. “Stepping up investments in malaria research and development is key to achieving the Global Technical Strategy targets. In 2016, $588 million was spent in this area, representing 85 per cent of the estimated annual need for research and development,” the report shows.

The Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016–2030 sets the target of reducing global malaria incidence and mortality rates by at least 90 per cent by 2030.

In the WHO African region, the percentage of the population at risk declined from 10.1 per cent ( 80 million) in 2010 to 5.4 per cent ( 51 million) in 2016, before rising to 6.6 per cent ( 64 million) in 2017.

Most of these increases in the period 2016 – 2017 were reported in Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia.

“The WHO African region accounted for 93 per cent of all malaria deaths in 2017. Although the region was home to the highest number of malaria deaths in 2017, it also accounted for 88 per cent of the 172,000 fewer global malaria deaths reported in 2017 compared with 2010,” the report says.

The report also identifies Plasmodium falciparum as the most prevalent malaria parasite in the WHO African Region, accounting for 99.7 per cent of estimated malaria cases in 2017.

According to the report, 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and India carried almost 80 per cent of the global malaria burden. Five countries accounted for nearly half of all malaria cases worldwide. Nigeria had the highest with 25 per cent followed by Democratic Republic of the Congo with 11 per cent. Uganda was the fifth with four per cent.

The report estimates 435,000 deaths occurred to due to malaria globally in 2017, compared with 451,000 estimated deaths in 2016, and 607,000 in 2010. “Children aged under five are the most vulnerable group. In 2017, they accounted for 61 per cent ( 266,000 ) of all malaria deaths worldwide. The WHO African region accounted for 93 per cent of all malaria deaths in 2017.

The report says even though malaria burden has continued to rise in countries with the highest burden of the disease, there is inadequate international and domestic investment in malaria control.

At the same time, the continued emergence of parasite resistance to antimalarial medicines and mosquito resistance to insecticides pose threats to progress.