WHO chief: Mexico in 'bad shape' with coronavirus pandemic

People walk on a shopping street decorated for Christmas in central Barcelona on Nov 30 2020

People walk on a shopping street decorated for Christmas in central Barcelona on Nov 30 2020

Mexico is in "bad shape" and needs to get serious in tackling the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization's director-general said on Monday.

Noting that malaria is a preventable and treatable disease that continued to claim hundreds of thousands of lives each year, it stressed that better targeting of interventions, new tools, and increased funding is needed to change the global trajectory of the disease and reach internationally-agreed targets.

But "long-term success in reaching a malaria-free world within a generation is far from assured", it said.

As of last Friday, Mexico reported a record daily increase in the number of coronavirus cases, with Mexico City reporting the biggest portion of the surge in cases.

Speaking later at an evening news conference, Mexico's deputy health minister, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, said he had "great respect" for Tedros and that he did not have to answer him. The region has made much progress since 2000, reducing its malaria death toll by 44 per cent - from an estimated 680,000 to 384,000 - but the pace has slowed in recent years, particularly in countries with a high disease burden.

The UN health agency said a funding shortfall posed a "significant threat", with only $3 billion of a $5.6 billion target raised in 2019.

The organization warns that a shortage of money threatens gains in the future, with funding in 2019 totaling three billion US dollars, against a target of $5.6 billion. The commitments and actions countries make in the next few years will be crucial for getting back on track to achieve the ambitious and realistic malaria reduction targets, especially in Africa, a continent that carries over 90% of the global malaria burden. Funding shortages have led to critical gaps in access to proven malaria control tools.

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At the same time, although Covid-19 is a primary factor in reducing progress towards malaria elimination, the measures to contain the pandemic have pointed to ways to strengthen health systems, including those delivering malaria services.

Thanks to countries' unprecedented mobilization in the face of COVID-19, over 90% of life-saving malaria prevention campaigns scheduled for this year went ahead, helping avert the worst-case scenario of a doubling of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 alone. "WHO is concerned that even moderate disruptions in access to treatment could lead to a considerable loss of life".

Dr Elizabeth Chizema, RBM Partnership Board Member and former Director of Zambia's National Malaria Elimination Programme, said the global malaria community must make the most of the opportunity to use real-time data to inform real-time decision making. Disruptions of 25 percent and 50 per cent in the region could result in an additional 46 000 and 100 000 deaths, respectively. According to the report, most malaria prevention campaigns were able to move forward this year without major delays.

The report highlights key milestones and events that helped shape the global response to the disease in recent decades.

According to the report, 21 countries eliminated malaria over the last two decades; of these, 10 countries were officially certified as malaria-free by WHO.

Rather than a uniform approach, countries have recently begun to adopt tailored responses based on local data and intelligence, in order to try to keep up the pressure on malaria. The report confirmed that in 2019, 409,000 people died from malaria and there were 229 million malaria cases globally.

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