The lives of 6.2m people, mostly children, have been saved since 2000 and a target to cut deaths has been met “convincingly”, it said. New cases of malaria have dropped by 37% in 15 years.
In 2015, there were 214m new cases of malaria, while 438,000 people died of the disease. 3.2bn people, almost half of the world’s population, are still at risk of malaria, the study said.
Children under five account for more than two-thirds of all malaria deaths.
Between 2000 and 2015, the under-five malaria death rate fell by 65%, equivalent to 5.9m lives.
Dr Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO, said: “Global malaria control is one of the great public health success stories of the past 15 years. It’s a sign that our strategies are on target, and that we can beat this ancient killer, which still claims hundreds of thousands of lives, mostly children, each year.”
An increasing number of countries are on the verge of eliminating malaria. In 2014, 13 countries reported no cases of the disease and six countries reported fewer than 10 cases.
But 15 countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, accounted for 80% of malaria cases and 78% of deaths in 2015. A single mosquito bite can lead to infection, which can prove fatal.
Symptoms of malaria include fever, sweats and chills, headaches, vomiting and muscle pain.