Written by Delphine Thizy, Stakeholder Engagement Manager at Target Malaria

The World Health Organization (WHO) released its World Malaria Report 2019 today. The good news is that the number of malaria cases continues to decline. In 2018, there were 228 million cases of malaria worldwide, compared to 231 million in the previous year. The number of deaths has also decreased from 416,000 in 2017 to 405,000 in 2018. In the last decade, 23 countries have been certified malaria-free and the number of countries with less than 10,000 cases continues to increase.

Global investments and actions to fight the disease are making a difference. However, we need to do more. The report stresses that progress is coming at a slower pace. In 2010, the number of cases per 1,000 population was 71 but, since 2014, it remains at 57. Moreover, malaria is increasingly becoming a disease of poverty and inequality, with only five countries in sub-Saharan Africa registering 50% of the cases in 2018. The situation is not likely to get better, as a recent study about climate change effects on health indicates. Women and children are the most vulnerable groups. Children under five are at particular risk, accounting for two-thirds of malaria deaths in 2018 worldwide.

The Lancet Countdown recently launched its 2019 report tracking the effects of climate change on health. After analysing 41 indicators, researchers from 35 academic institutions and UN agencies concluded that the future of an entire generation depends on our ability to keep global warming below 2oC.

The impact of climate change on disease transmission is particularly concerning. Using 1950s data as reference, the climate suitability for malaria transmission averaged 29.9% above it from 2012 to 2017.

In a recent interview, Professor Fred Gould, one of the founders of the Genetic Engineering and Society Center (GES) of NC State University, discussed the challenges of communicating science and the importance of including society in the science debate. He stressed that the biggest issue in the agriculture and food systems debate is misinformation, aggravated by the amount of unreliable information available online. He also emphasized the need to involve society in the debate around genetic engineering. An inclusive discussion is vital to avoid research disruptions and to make sure decisions consider the public good when discussing technical disciplines that can have a transformational impact on humanity.

Invasive alien species (IAS) are one of the leading causes of biodiversity loss, especially in the case of islands. Although representing only 5.3% of the Earth's land mass, islands are linked to 75% of the extinctions of birds, amphibians, mammals, and reptiles worldwide. Traditional tools to control IAS, such as toxicants, can be excessively costly, geographically limited and have off-target effects.

Earlier this year, the NC State University, GES Center, Keystone Policy Center and the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes organized a two-day workshop to explore different perspectives on the development of a gene drive mouse for restoring biodiversity on islands. The report about the workshop is now available online and aims to inform ongoing discussions about governance and engagement practices in the case of emerging technologies.