After years of steady decline, annual rates of the mosquito-borne disease have levelled off according to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 2018 report.

It says the only solution is to focus on the countries hit hardest by the disease – most of which are in Africa.

Although scientists are working on vaccines and ways to control mosquito numbers, preventative measures aren’t working fast enough.

The WHO’s malaria chief Pedro Alonso says methods of combating malaria need fine-tuning.

“The question to us is, how do we get back on track to meet those targets? And that is what WHO in co-operation with partners across the world is launching a response that we have called from high burden to high impact, putting the focus on the highest burden countries, helping them get back on track by the four key elements – political leadership, the use of information to better target the response, improving our normative work and most importantly co-ordinating all partners around a national plan – a nationally owned and developed plan,” he said.

The estimated number of malaria cases world-wide fell from nearly 240 million in 2010 to just over 214 million in 2015 but then rose by 5 million, to 219 million, in 2017.

There is some good news – Alonso also says countries with fewer than 10 000 cases of malaria are now within reach of eliminating the disease completely.

“Rwanda, Ethiopia, Pakistan and particularly India are great examples of massive progress in just 12 months, particularly in India, Orisha State has by itself reduced malaria in over 40% in just a year which is a reminder that with the right type of political leadership and commitment, the right tools, the right investment, malaria can be defeated and can be defeated very quickly,” he added.

Rwanda saw a 436 000 drop in malaria cases in 2017.

The WHO needs to get back on track quickly if it’s to meet its target of reducing disease and mortality rates by 40% by 2020.