These two maps reveal an incredibly inspiring health breakthrough

Between 2000 and 2015, a major public health push prevented approximately 663 million people in sub-Saharan Africa from getting malaria, averting more than 6 million deaths.

The maps below show how the infection prevalence among children two to 10 years old in this area dropped by half during this time period — from 33% to 16%.

The year 2000 is on the left; 2015 is on the right. The yellow and red areas are where malaria is most pervasive:

These maps are from a study published in Nature Sept. 16 that described how this reduction was made possible by three simple solutions: the wide distribution of insecticide-sprayed bed nets, spraying insecticides on surfaces indoors, and administering drug combination therapy to treat malaria promptly.

Of those, one remarkably successful innovation — insecticide-treated bed nets — resulted in the largest reduction by far, accounting for 68% of the cases prevented. Between 2004 and 2014, 900 million such nets were distributed in sub-Saharan Africa.

More than 3 billion people are at risk of getting malaria, according to the World Health Organisation, and almost all of the 584,000 deaths in 2013 were in the areas of Africa where malaria has long been endemic. There is still more work to do — more nets have to be handed out, more homes have to be sprayed, and more people have to be treated with the best medicines available.

But we are making progress against this mosquito-borne disease, as these maps show.

Roll Back Malaria, a partnership of over 500 organisations including the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, and the World Bank, has a goal to reduce malaria incidence and mortality by 90 per cent in the next 15 years. To do that, the organisation estimates global funding for combating the disease will have to increase to $US8.7 billion by 2030.

Now that there has been so much success with reduction, researchers are setting their sights even higher — with a goal of completely eradicating malaria in those places where it is already becoming less and less common: “There are now 121 (110 — 133) million people living in settings where elimination campaigns can be considered.”

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