The death toll from malaria in Rwanda has fallen by 55 percent since 2000, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) malaria report, released on Tuesday.
The report indicates that Rwanda is among only eight African countries with more than 50 percent reduction of malaria cases, admissions in hospitals and deaths over the past decade.
“The report is a compilation of data on malaria as of December, 2010, although it is called the World Malaria Report 2011,” said Dr Corine Karema, the Director General of the Malaria Unit at Rwanda Biomedical Center.
“It ranks Rwanda among the best performing three African countries with the biggest reductions of malaria cases and deaths since 2000, along Senegal and Eritrea”.
The WHO impact assessment shows that Rwanda has reduced malaria cases by 65 percent.
She largely attributed the country’s progress to the high coverage of long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito bed nets.
Dr Karema noted that part of Rwanda’s success is derived from the government’s commitment to ensuring universal health insurance (Mutuelle de Sante) and community-based Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy (ACT).
Meanwhile, the report indicated that Rwanda needed more investments in malaria control, estimating that US$ 265 million will be needed to sustain the malaria control programme over the next five years.
The public health system could avert about US$ 547 million in direct and indirect costs if there was investment of US$ 267 million in preventative measures, it pointed out.
Between 2005 and 2008, the country spent US$ 27 million each year on malaria control; the programme was mainly financed by the Global Fund, the World Bank and WHO. In 2009 the funding increased to US$ 40 million, provided by the Global Fund.
According to the WHO, malaria mortality rates have fallen by more than 25 percent globally since 2000 and by 33 percent in Africa.
However, it warns that a projected shortfall in funding threatens the fragile gains and that the double challenge of emerging drug and insecticide resistance needs to be proactively addressed.
“We are making significant progress in battling a major public health problem. Coverage of at-risk populations with malaria prevention and control measures increased again in 2010, and resulted in a further decline in estimated malaria cases and deaths,” Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director General, said at the launch of the report.