Today is World Malaria Day, and the World Health Organization reminds us that each year the world sees approximately 250 million malaria cases and nearly 800,000 deaths from the disease. In 2009, half of the world’s population were at risk of malaria. The disease is present in 106 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East and Eurasia.

The Roll Back Malaria Campaign has an optimistic view of where the world stands with regard to malaria today:

Today, for the first time in 50 years, the international community is poised to win the fight against malaria worldwide. Effective, low-cost tools exist to prevent and treat the disease and new and improved tools are currently being developed and tested. A consensus global action plan has been put forth to guide a coordinated international effort to control, eliminate and eventually eradicate malaria. A robust Partnership, uniting all key actors and stakeholders in malaria control, is in place to respond to challenges that no organization or government can face alone.

This year the global malaria community will report on the progress made to save a million lives through the delivery of malaria interventions – protective nets, diagnostic tests, antimalarial drugs and indoor spraying – to all people at risk of the disease and to pave the way towards virtually ending deaths by 2015.

The Global Malaria Action Plan has a three-part strategy: controlling malaria to reduce the current burden; eliminating the disease over time country by country; and researching new tools and approaches for global control and elimination efforts. The plan’s executive summary notes that funding for malaria control has been on the rise, with an estimated $1.5 billion (from a combination of sources) going to the effort in 2007. But funding will have to quadruple in order to reach the target amounts. A time of widespread global financial crises and recessions doesn’t make the easiest climate for fundraising for public health priorities.

Controlling mosquito-borne diseases isn’t easy, as we’re seeing with West Nile Virus in the US. But eradicating malaria is a worthwhile goal, and one I hope will continue to have strong support.