The holidays came early this year for the global health community, with news that malaria deaths globally are at an all-time low.
According to the World Health Organization's annual World Malaria Report, mortality rates from the disease have fallen dramatically to 584,000 annually -- including a 58 percent decline in child deaths in Africa, where 90 percent of malaria deaths occur.
This is tremendous progress, made possible by the increased resources to fight the disease led by the U.S. and U.K. governments, and the ambitious scale-up of effective tools such as affordable medication and insecticide-treated bed nets. The same report credits these interventions with averting a remarkable 670 million cases of malaria and 4.3 million deaths since 2001.
But while the latest facts and figures are promising, they show that our job is not yet done. To fresh eyes, the same figure we're celebrating -- only 584,000 people dying from mosquito bites -- may sound absurd. And it should. In this day and age, there's no reason anyone should die from malaria.
We're at a crucial point in this fight -- having come further than any other generation in finally bringing an end to one of the world's oldest, costliest and deadliest diseases, we can't become complacent. As Bill Gates recently stated, "The only way to stop this disease is to end it forever."
Now is the moment to put the world on a path to eradicating malaria within a generation, a feat that would rank as one of the greatest humanitarian achievements in history.
To do that we need to think differently -- we need to invent a new generation of tools that puts us on offense against malaria: hypersensitive diagnostics, next-gen treatments, new vector controls. The innovation pipeline is bursting with new tools, and we're going to need them to win the fight.
We also need to rethink how we fund malaria. While funding for malaria control and elimination has increased threefold since 2005 to $2.7 billion in 2013, we need to expand domestic investment and explore innovative financing approaches if we're going to sustain the fight to eradication.
In addition to increased resources, global government and health leaders must work together to bring an end to the ongoing Ebola epidemic in West Africa. As the WHO report also points out, the Ebola outbreak has crippled malaria treatments and control programs, with already-fragile health systems near collapse under the weight of the Ebola crisis.
Malaria No More has just celebrated its 8th anniversary. When we started back in 2006, many had given up on ever ending this disease, which then claimed the lives of more than a million children each year. Thanks to the efforts of governments, the engaged public, private sector leaders and new investments in research and development, we've helped cut that number by more than half. With continued dedication and focus on the fight, I'm confident we can soon bring that number to zero and live up to our name.