Overview of malaria surveillance

Improved surveillance for malaria cases and deaths helps ministries of health to determine which areas and/or population groups are most affected and enables countries to monitor changing disease patterns. Strong malaria surveillance systems also help countries design effective health interventions and evaluate the impact of their malaria control programmes.

Malaria surveillance is currently weakest in countries with the highest malaria burden, rendering it difficult to accurately assess disease trends and plan interventions. At present, only one tenth of the 219 million cases that are estimated to occur each year are detected and reported through national malaria surveillance systems. (WHO’s uncertainty range for malaria cases is 154 million to 289 million.) Only 58 of the 99 countries with ongoing malaria transmission produce sufficiently complete and consistent data on malaria that allow a reliable assessment of malaria trends over time.

WHO guidance

WHO urges malaria-endemic countries to strengthen their disease surveillance, health information and vital registration systems. The data generated through such systems are essential for evaluating and improving the effectiveness of health interventions. In April 2012, WHO published two operational manuals to provide updated guidance on global reporting standards, and to help endemic countries strengthen their surveillance systems. Disease surveillance for malaria control and Disease surveillance for malaria elimination describe the general principles of surveillance, recommended case definitions and core indicators, procedures for data recording, and guidance on the establishment of surveillance systems. The manuals also contain templates for recording, reporting and investigating malaria cases.

The World Malaria Report, published annually, brings together all the data reported by countries to WHO, including their surveillance data. For countries that do not have adequate surveillance systems, WHO produces estimates of cases and deaths. As of 2012, country-based case and mortality estimates are published every two years. Regional and global malaria case and mortality estimates are published every other year. The next regional and global burden estimates are scheduled to be released in December 2013.

Last update: 6 March 2013

Key documents