Background: Declining donor funding and competing health priorities threaten the sustainability of malaria programmes. Elucidating the cost and benefits of continued investments in malaria could encourage sustained political and financial commitments. The evidence, although available, remains disparate. This paper reviews the existing literature on the economic and financial cost and return of malaria control, elimination and eradication.
Methods: A review of articles that were published on or before September 2014 on the cost and benefits of malaria control and elimination was performed. Studies were classified based on their scope and were analysed according to two major categories: cost of malaria control and elimination to a health system, and cost-benefit studies. Only studies involving more than two control or elimination interventions were included. Outcomes of interest were total programmatic cost, cost per capita, and benefit-cost ratios (BCRs). All costs were converted to 2013 US$ for standardization.
Results: Of the 6425 articles identified, 54 studies were included in this review. Twenty-two were focused on elimination or eradication while 32 focused on intensive control. Forty-eight per cent of studies included in this review were published on or after 2000. Overall, the annual per capita cost of malaria control to a health system ranged from $0.11 to $39.06 (median: $2.21) while that for malaria elimination ranged from $0.18 to $27 (median: $3.00). BCRs of investing in malaria control and elimination ranged from 2.4 to over 145.
Conclusion: Overall, investments needed for malaria control and elimination varied greatly amongst the various countries and contexts. In most cases, the cost of elimination was greater than the cost of control. At the same time, the benefits of investing in malaria greatly outweighed the costs. While the cost of elimination in most cases was greater than the cost of control, the benefits greatly outweighed the cost. Information from this review provides guidance to national malaria programmes on the cost and benefits of malaria elimination in the absence of data. Importantly, the review highlights the need for more robust economic analyses using standard inputs and methods to strengthen the evidence needed for sustained financing for malaria elimination.