By Anna Matteo
05 February, 2018

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

In recent decades, countries around the world have made great progress against malaria. However, a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) says that progress is at risk.

This WHO annual report looks at the global fight against the disease. It says that malaria cases are on the rise in several countries.

This 2009 photo shows malaria patients being treated at the hospital in Cambodia. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
This 2009 photo shows malaria patients being treated at the hospital in Cambodia. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Many countries are moving toward eliminating malaria, among them Madagascar, Senegal and Zimbabwe.

However, the WHO report warns that in others, progress has stalled.

Malaria cases increased by more than 20 percent from 2015 to 2016 in eight African countries - including Rwanda, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

At the same time, funding for malaria prevention and treatment has leveled off, reaching $2.7 billion in 2016. This amount is less than half of the 2020 target.

Professor David Conway is from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He says money for fighting malaria has plateaued, meaning it has not increased in a long time.

"That amount of funding internationally has plateaued.Possibly it has reached the realistic maximum. And it has always been assumed; indeed it has been important that countries themselves should commit to funding malaria control. And I think the big opportunity now is for those countries to step up and realize that this is good value."

Overall, Africa continues to suffer the most from malaria. In 2016, just over 400,000 people died from the disease. This is slightly less than in 2015. However, in Africa the malaria parasite does not yet appear to be developing drug resistance.

The same cannot be said for Southeast Asia.

Conway explains that there are renewed concerns that in Southeast Asia malaria will become drug-resistant in the future.

"The current treatments within Africa – they work very well. There is resistance in Southeast Asia which has spread, which potentially going to be more of a problem in the future. Insecticide resistance has spread much more. That's resistance in the mosquitoes."

The WHO is calling for improving the coverage of existing methods of malaria prevention as well as an urgent investment in new tools -- namely a malaria vaccine.

Again, here is Professor Conway.

"More research is needed to develop an effective malaria vaccine that could cover the populations that at the moment have high malaria rates and that perhaps don't use the available interventions even when they are being funded."

Several malaria vaccines are under development. Starting in 2018, the WHO is planning a major trial of the RTSS vaccine in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.

But this latest report from the WHO warns that the world is at a crossroads. Without better funding and more effective tools to fight malaria, the progress made in recent decades could be undone.

And that's the Health & Lifestyle report.

I'm Anna Matteo.

Henry Ridgwell reported this story for VOA News. Anna Matteo adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

stall – v. to bring to a standstill

plateau – v. to reach a level, period, or condition of stability or maximum attainment

realistic – adj. able to see things as they really are and to deal with them in a practical way

maximum – adj. the highest number or amount that is possible or allowed — usually singular

assume – v. to think that something is true or probably true without knowing that it is true

commit – v. to say that (someone or something) will definitely do something : to make (someone or something) obligated to do something

step up – phrasal verb to come forward <stepped up to claim responsibility> : to increase, augment, or advance especially by one or more steps <step up production>

insecticide – n. a chemical substance that is used to kill insects

intervention – n. to become involved in something (such as a conflict) in order to have an influence on what happens

trial – n. a test of the quality, value, or usefulness of something

crossroads – n. often used figuratively to refer to a place or time at which a decision must be made