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A worker fumigates buildings to control malaria in Sri Lanka in 2011. Photo: Eranga Jayawardena / AP Photo

There were 5 million more malaria cases in 2016 compared to the previous year, according to the World Health Organization. This is an abrupt change: the number of cases dropped over 60% from 2000-2015. "For the first time, we can confidently say that we have stopped making progress," Pedro Alonso, the director of the Global Malaria Programme at the World Health Organization tells Amy Maxmen at Nature.

Why it matters: According to the WHO, more than half the world's population is at risk of contracting malaria. In 2015, over 200 million people were infected with malaria and nearly half a million died, mostly children under the age of 5.

Why it's happening:

  • Funding shortages. In 2016, the amount of money spent combatting malaria decreased. Reports Maxmen, "A review of 75 malaria resurgences between 1930 and 2011 found that most upticks in the disease followed funding disruptions."
  • Indoor residual spraying. The Economist reports some are blaming a decline in indoor residual spraying, which treats walls of houses with insecticide, for the increase. But evidence on the efficacy of indoor residual spraying is mixed.
  • Ongoing humanitarian crises in countries like Sudan and Yemen make targeting malaria in those places more difficult, though the WHO reports apparent reductions in cases in some of those countries.
  • Access to treatment is still less than it should be in many countries, reports the WHO.

Drug resistance: It's concerning that we're seeing more malaria cases, in part because resistance to some drugs is rapidly spreading in malaria in Southeast Asia. The region only accounts for 3% of malaria cases, reports Maxmen, but if the resistant disease makes it to Africa deaths could dramatically increase.

The bottom line: "If you ask me, the number-one priority must be to ensure that people stop dying of a disease that is entirely curable," Alonso told Maxmen.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

6 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.

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