There were 216 million global malaria cases in 2016, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report released Nov. 29.

This is 5 million more than in 2015, and the first increase since 2010 when there were 237 million cases.

The number of deaths from malaria declined in 2016, dropping to 445,000 from 446,000 in 2015.

“Although malaria case incidence has fallen globally since 2010, the rate of decline has stalled and even reversed in some regions since 2014. Mortality rates have followed a similar pattern,” the report stated. “The WHO African Region continues to account for about 90 percent of malaria cases and deaths worldwide. Fifteen countries – all but one in sub-Saharan Africa – carry 80 percent of the global malaria burden.”

Lack of widespread usage of insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) is a key reason for the high malaria rate in sub-Saharan Africa, despite increased distribution in recent years.

“Between 2014 and 2016, a total of 582 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) were reported by manufacturers as having been delivered globally,” WHO stated. “Of this amount, 505 million ITNs were delivered in sub-Saharan Africa, compared with 301 million bed nets in the preceding 3-year period (2011-2013).”

Sub-Saharan households with at least one ITN increased 30 percent since 2010, reaching 80 percent last year. Despite a 30 percent increase in people sleeping under ITNs across Africa since 2010, only 54 percent did so 2016.

“The proportion of households with sufficient nets (i.e., one net for every two people) remains inadequate, at 43 percent in 2016,” the report added.

Indoor residual spraying (IRS), another preventative method in which interior walls are sprayed with an insecticide, has declined since 2010.

“The choice before us is clear,” asserted Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general. “If we continue with a ‘business as usual’ approach – employing the same level of resources and the same interventions – we will face near-certain increases in malaria cases and deaths.”

The full report is available here.

Editor’s note: An series for World Malaria Day 2017 highlighted Baptist initiatives to curb malaria by distributing ITNs. The series is available here.

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