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Despite significant progress over the last few decades, meningitis remains a much-feared disease worldwide with a high case fatality rate and a propensity to cause epidemics that present a major challenge for health systems, economies and society. Meningitis caused an estimated 250 000 deaths in 2019, leaving one in five affected individuals with long-term devastating sequelae, and has serious consequences with considerable emotional, social and financial impact on individuals, families and communities. Meningitis is a largely preventable disease through vaccination, but progress in the fight against the disease is behind other diseases preventable by vaccination.
WHO, with global partners and experts involved in meningitis prevention and control, led the development of a global road map that sets forth a vision and roadmap to defeat meningitis by 2030, involving hundreds of experts, Member States representatives, partners, Civil Society Organization as well as private sector representatives, through multidisciplinary, iterative and comprehensive consultations.
The Defeating meningitis by 2030 global road map has been approved by the Seventy-third session of the World Health Assembly in November 2020 (resolution WHA73.9).
The road map sets a comprehensive vision for 2030 “Towards a world free of meningitis”, with three visionary goals:
- Elimination of bacterial meningitis epidemics;
- Reduction of cases of vaccine-preventable bacterial meningitis by 50% and deaths by 70%;
- Reduction of disability and improvement of quality of life after meningitis due to any cause.
It sets a path to achieve goals, through concerted actions across five interconnected pillars:
- Prevention and epidemic control focused on the development of new affordable vaccines, achievement of high immunization coverage, improvement of prevention strategies and response to epidemics;
- Diagnosis and treatment, focused on speedy confirmation of meningitis and optimal management;
- Disease surveillance to guide meningitis prevention and control;
- Care and support of those affected by meningitis, focusing on early recognition and improved access care and support for after-effects from meningitis, and
- Advocacy and engagement, to ensure high awareness of meningitis, consideration into countries plans, and increase the right to prevention, care and after-care services.
While the road map on defeating meningitis addresses all meningitis regardless of the cause, it primarily focuses on the main causes of acute bacterial meningitis (meningococcus, pneumococcus, Haemophilus influenzae and group B streptococcus), that were responsible for over 50% of the 250 000 deaths from all-cause meningitis in 2019, cause other invasive disease such as sepsis and pneumonia, and against which effective vaccines are available (or will be in a near future).