The rising prevalence of multidrug resistant falciparum malaria is occurring at an alarming rate and has serious implications for the health of many of the world's poorest countries. The dangers of not changing treatment practices immediately are huge and irreversible, threatening to both exacerbate the scale and scope of the malaria pandemic, and deprive policymakers of future options against the disease. If a health care disaster is to be avoided then massive and long term funding is urgently required. Funds need to be applied in a cohesive manner, accountable to funding bodies and tailored to the specifics of each endemic region. The key elements of such an approach should be improving early diagnosis and treatment of infection and the deployment of combination regimens containing an artemisinin derivative. These short term measures will need to be accompanied by a longer term strategy to encourage antimalarial drug research and development.