Malaria deaths could be stopped by 2015 if enough investment in control measures is made, the WHO has said.
Over the last decade the number of deaths has dropped from 985,000 in 2000 to 781,000 in 2009, according to the World Malaria Report 2010.
"This disease is entirely preventable and treatable," said Robert Newman, director of the WHO's global malaria programme.
The success is attributed largely to the use of long-lasting insecticide-treated nets, indoor spraying of insecticides, and the use of new diagnostic tests that allow prompt treatment of confirmed cases and reduce mistreatment — which, in turn, reduces the likelihood of the malaria parasite developing resistance to Artemisinin-based combination therapy, the fourth pillar of the malaria success story.
But the report said that three countries — Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, and Zambia — have reported resurgences in the number of cases, highlighting how fragile the gains are.
Experts are debating the next steps in the fight against the disease. The furthest advanced vaccine, RTS,S, may be available by 2015. But the goal of wiping out malaria altogether poses some tough economic questions.
Funding, estimated at US$1.8 billion a year, falls far short of the US$6 billion needed.