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In 2018 leaders across the Commonwealth committed to halving malaria across epidemic countries by 2023. Yet, despite significant progress towards this goal, many countries are not on track to meet reduction targets, a new report has revealed.

The Commonwealth Malaria Report 2021 stated that if these targets were met, millions of malaria cases would be averted resulting in thousands of lives saved.

Positively, the report did indicate nearly one-third of malaria-endemic Commonwealth countries were on track to halve their case incidence and mortality rate from the disease by the end of 2019.  But despite country-level progress, as a grouping, the Commonwealth was currently not on track to reach the 50% reduction target.

The report called on countries to accelerate action in the coming years to reach the historic target in the face of severe disruptions in malaria services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Discussed at the annual Commonwealth health ministers meeting held last month, the ministers agreed to accelerate progress towards the target of halving malaria by 2023, when they met at their annual meeting held last month.

The ministers also resolved to continue their commitment to combating the disease across the Commonwealth in order to achieve regional and global malaria targets for 2030.

Additionally they welcomed a recently launched ‘Commonwealth Malaria Tracker’ which will assist in monitoring targets and identify areas for improvement.

Speaking after the meeting, Rwanda’s Minister of Health, The Hon Dr Daniel Ngamige said investment in defeating malaria will not only save 217,000 lives in the Commonwealth every year, but would also have an add-on effect on strengthening overall health systems that were well equipped to tackle outbreaks and protect all citizens.

“It is clear from discussions at the health ministers meeting that we must get back on track to meet the commitment to halve malaria by 2023 and accelerate progress towards elimination in line with our global and regional commitments will be vital.”

Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC added that although COVID-19 has seized the world’s attention and resources, it was equally important for Commonwealth countries to maintain focus on pre-pandemic commitments and also sustain gains in malaria and other health conditions.

“Allowing ourselves to be distracted would result in irreparable damage to major health gains and human security.”