The road map has been presented at an online event by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, and partners.
It has been designated as a flagship global strategy of the WHO’s Thirteenth General Programme of Work 2019–2023 and is an essential component in achieving universal health coverage.
Major public health issue
Despite successful efforts to control meningitis in several regions, meningitis continues to be a major public health issue. It kills about 300,000 people annually, and leaves 1 in 5 of those affected with long-term devastating after-effects. It is also a significant health security concern. Meningitis epidemics can strike fast, are unpredictable and cause massive disruption to communities and health systems.
For these reasons, WHO, in collaboration with partners and experts involved in meningitis prevention and control, has developed the first global road map that sets forth a vision and strategy to defeat meningitis by 2030.
Three visionary goals
This road map includes three visionary goals: to eliminate epidemics of bacterial meningitis; to reduce cases of vaccine-preventable bacterial meningitis by 50% and deaths by 70%; and reduce disability and improve quality of life after meningitis of any cause.
The road map will reinforce and combine with wider initiatives, such as those aimed at strengthening primary health care and health systems, increasing immunisation coverage, improving global health security, fighting antimicrobial resistance and advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities.
It will complement other global control strategies, such as those addressing septicaemia (sepsis), pneumonia, tuberculosis and HIV.
Challenge for all countries
Implementation will be a challenge for all countries across the world, but especially in resource-poor settings where the burden of meningitis is greatest. The targets for the visionary and strategic goals will be adapted to regional and local contexts.
Plans for monitoring and evaluation, communication and risk management will be available to guide and support implementation. Global action to implement this road map and achieve the ambitious goals to defeat meningitis is needed now.
Strong commitments from countries, partners and donors will be essential to success.
Major step forward
Dr Tom Nutt, our chief executive, said: “This is a major step forward by the World Health Organization and we welcome this worldwide commitment to eradicate the scourge of meningitis.
“For our own part at Meningitis Now as a UK-focussed charity we have recently outlined our own road map in our Strategic Plan 2021-26, Making a difference, every day.
“In this we reinforce our vision of a future where no one in the UK loses their life to meningitis, and all those affected get the support they need to rebuild their lives.
“Our three key priorities in support of this – to fight to defeat meningitis in the UK within a generation; to reach out to everyone who needs our help, support and information; and to be recognised as a centre of expertise for aftercare and support - sit very comfortably alongside this wider WHO initiative.
“Fighting meningitis has been our driving force for the last four decades. We’re making a difference now and we stand ready to support the WHO road map in any way we can as we continue to make a difference in the fight against meningitis.”
Read more about the WHO road map.
Read about our Strategic Plan 2021-26.