Malaria is one of the most common infectious diseases and a great public health problem worldwide, particularly in Africa and south Asia. About three billion people are at risk of infection in 109 countries. Each year, there are an estimated 250 million cases of malaria leading to approximately one million deaths, mostly in children under five years of age. The organism that causes the most dangerous form of malaria is a microscopic parasite called Plasmodium falciparum.
Several international organizations have set up ambitious objectives for large-scale malaria control. The target set by the Word Health Organization (WHO) in 2005 is to offer malaria prevention and treatment services by 2010 to at least 80% of the people who need them. By doing so, it aims to reduce at least by half the proportion of people who become ill or die from malaria by 2010 and at least by three quarters by 2015 compared to 2005.
It is vital to monitor malaria trends to see if malaria control campaigns are being effective, and to make improvements.