LONDON (Reuters) - Global funding for the fight against malaria has stalled in the past two years, threatening to reverse what the World Health Organisation (WHO) says are "remarkable recent gains" in the battle to control one of the world's leading infectious killers.
After rapid expansion between 2004 and 2009, funding for malaria prevention and control leveled off between 2010 and 2012 - meaning there were fewer life-saving steps taken in hard- hit malarial regions such as sub-Saharan Africa.
"If we don't scale up vector control activities in 2013 we can expect major resurgences of malaria," said Richard Cibulskis, lead author of the WHO's World Malaria Report, which was published on Monday.
"Vector control" means stopping transmission of the disease with tools such as treated mosquito nets. The report found that deliveries of such nets to endemic countries in sub-Saharan Africa dropped from 145 million in 2010 to an estimated 66 million in 2012.
"This means that many households will be unable to replace existing bed nets when required, exposing more people to the potentially deadly disease," the report said.
Malaria is caused by a parasite carried in the saliva of mosquitoes and kills hundreds of thousands of people a year, mainly babies and children under the age of five in Africa.
According to WHO data, the disease infected around 219 million people in 2010, killing around 660,000 of them. Robust figures are, however, hard to establish and other health experts say the annual malaria death toll could be double that.