At the 73rd Session of the World Health Assembly, Member States overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution calling for urgent action on meningitis prevention and control through the implementation of a bold, comprehensive global roadmap to defeat meningitis by 2030. Developed under WHO leadership, through extensive and broad consultation, this global roadmap paves the way for the implementation of multidisciplinary, integrated interventions to achieve:
- long-term integrated meningitis prevention and control for an accelerated and durable reduction in cases and deaths;
- shifting from epidemic preparedness and response to prevention and elimination of epidemics;
- recognition of long-term sequelae from meningitis and concerted action to reduce disability and provide support to people affected and their families.
Despite successful efforts to control meningitis in several regions of the world, meningitis continues to be a major global public health issue causing up to 5 million cases each year, including epidemics of new strains that spread between countries and across the world. The meningitis belt in Africa is the most vulnerable to recurrent outbreaks, but meningitis kills people of all ages in all countries. The burden of bacterial meningitis is particularly high, causing 300,000 deaths annually and leaving one in five of those affected with devastating long-term health consequences.
The Defeating Meningitis Roadmap addresses all types of meningitis, regardless of the cause, but particularly targets the main causes of acute bacterial meningitis (meningococcus, pneumococcus, Haemophilus influenzae, and group B streptococcus). Many of these cases and deaths are vaccine-preventable but efforts to get the vaccine to all those who need it have lagged behind other vaccine-preventable diseases. The roadmap will provide the framework to step up these prevention efforts.
Solidly grounded in Universal Health Coverage, it will be a powerful lever to drive progress towards stronger immunization programmes and Primary Health Care, and improved control of infectious diseases, global health security and access to disability support.
At a time of worldwide recognition of the widespread socio-economic impact and devastating effects on the welfare and well-being of populations caused by epidemics, this global roadmap comes at a critical time, helping to save lives and reduce suffering in all regions of the world.