Malaria is one of the most devastating infectious diseases in the world, affecting more than 200 million people and killing nearly half a million every year, mostly children under five in sub-Saharan Africa. To combat this scourge, a global partnership was launched in 1998 by four major organizations: the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank. The initiative, called Roll Back Malaria (RBM), aimed to halve deaths from malaria by 2010 by scaling up effective interventions such as insecticide-treated nets, indoor residual spraying, prompt diagnosis and treatment, and preventive therapies for pregnant women and children.
RBM brought together a diverse range of partners, including malaria-endemic countries, bilateral and multilateral donors, private sector companies, non-governmental and community-based organizations, foundations, and research and academic institutions. The partnership mobilized resources, coordinated actions, forged consensus, and advocated for political commitment and increased funding for malaria control and elimination. RBM also supported regional and sub-regional initiatives, such as the Abuja Declaration in 2000, which set a target of reaching 60% coverage of key interventions by 2005, and the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) in 2009, which established a scorecard to monitor progress and accountability.
RBM’s efforts have contributed to remarkable achievements in the fight against malaria over the past two decades. According to WHO estimates, between 2000 and 2019, global malaria cases declined by 23% and deaths by 60%, averting more than 7 billion cases and 1.5 million deaths. In addition, since 2000, 43 countries have eliminated malaria, including four in Africa: Algeria, Botswana, Mauritius and Seychelles. However, challenges remain, as malaria still poses a serious threat to millions of people, especially in Africa, where more than 90% of cases and deaths occur. The COVID-19 pandemic has also disrupted malaria services and threatened to reverse the gains made so far. Moreover, emerging resistance to insecticides and antimalarial drugs poses a major risk to the effectiveness of current tools.
To address these challenges and accelerate progress towards ending malaria for good, RBM has evolved over time to adapt to the changing landscape and needs of the malaria community. In 2015, RBM underwent a major transformation to become the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, with a new governance structure, a new secretariat hosted by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), and a new vision aligned with the global malaria strategy and the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2018, RBM changed its name from Roll Back Malaria to reflect its ambition to end the disease once and for all. In 2023, RBM welcomed a new CEO, Dr. Michael Adekunle Charles, and a new board chaired by Joy Phumaphi.
The RBM Partnership to End Malaria is the largest global platform for coordinated action against malaria. It continues to play a vital role in mobilizing political will, catalyzing resources, fostering collaboration, promoting innovation, and supporting countries in their efforts to achieve malaria elimination. As the world marks World Malaria Day on April 25th under the theme “Zero Malaria – Draw the Line Against Malaria”, RBM calls on all partners to join forces and renew their commitment to end this preventable and treatable disease that still claims a life every two minutes. Together, we can make history and end malaria for good.