Defeating meningitis by 2030

A global vision for meningitis by 2030 and an action plan to get there

May 2017 - 2030

Making meningitis a health priority

The issue 

Meningitis remains a universal public health challenge in countries around the world. In 2016, the team at Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) reviewed the latest data and global health policies available for meningitis. We discovered that, unlike other diseases, such as polio and malaria, there was no coordinated effort to defeat meningitis and associated sepsis (which can be caused by the same bacteria). Despite some great successes, such as the introduction of meningitis vaccines in some parts of the world, meningitis was missing from critical global health strategies and not prioritised appropriately.

With meningitis claiming so many lives, particularly in children, MRF knew things had to change. World Health Organization estimates from 2015 showed that meningitis and neonatal sepsis together killed more children than malaria, measles and TB combined.

Other vaccine-preventable diseases (such as measles and tetanus) saw global rates drop by 70-90%, but meningitis is drastically behind, dropping just 53% between 1990 and 2017.

Image: MRF raises awareness of the need for action in the media.

Taking action

May 2017

Working with Wilton Park, MRF bought together meningitis experts, civil society, global health organisations, academics and people affected by the disease from around the globe, to develop a plan. As a charity providing support, we hear from families who live with the consequences of meningitis every day and we amplified their voice to drive change.

At the end of the meeting, the World Health Organization (WHO) committed to taking action that would help to:

  1. 1. Eliminate meningitis epidemics
  2. 2. Reduce cases and deaths from vaccine-preventable meningitis
  3. 3. Reduce disability and maximise the quality of life for people affected by meningitis
The report from the meeting called for a new plan for meningitis that inherits the success of the past two decades and looks to address the challenges to 2030.

The summit report: download in English 
Le rapport du sommet:télécharger en françai


To take this forward, the WHO needed to hear from countries most affected by the disease. Following MRF's continued call for action and attendance at regional global health meetings, 200 representatives from 26 African countries gathered in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in September 2017 urging for the establishment of a global commitment and the implementation of urgent actions for equitable and sustainable access to meningitis vaccines.

In November 2017, the WHO began to set out its priorities for its next programme of work and consulted on topics to include. Meningitis had been missing from global health plans but, thanks to the success of the MRF and Wilton Park meeting, this was about to change. Outcomes from the meeting highlighted the need for progress in defeating meningitis. MRF also responded to the consultation to urge our partners and friends to write to the WHO too. Read our consultation response here.

The WHO recognised that meningitis was missing in their priorities and agreed to include a way of measuring progress against meningitis in their next programme of work.
Image: WHO responded to say they had heard the call for meningitis to be appropriately prioritised.


MRF and Wilton Park organised a three-day residential summit of leading experts in meningitis to start a process to create an action plan to 2030 aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (international goals set to secure a better future for all).

This unique opportunity encouraged discussion between senior health officials, policymakers, scientists and clinicians from countries affected by meningitis, as well as representatives from the WHO, UNICEF, PATH, Médecins Sans Frontières, CDC, the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, other global health organisations, patient groups and pharmaceutical companies.

In June 2018 WHO responded to calls from the summit by launching the Defeating Meningitis by 2030 initiative.

MRF is at the heart of that initiative and part of the expert task force led by WHO to tackle the disease. The taskforce, with consultation from experts, generated a report that gave a framework for the global roadmap. The taskforce and other key partners have been vital in driving forward action to defeat meningitis.
MRF's CEO, Vinny Smith, blogs on this Wilton Park summit. 

To ensure we had the evidence to call for action, MRF worked with a range of health data experts to analyse the latest data. In November 2018, this led to the publication of a scientific paper in The Lancet Neurology, which showed that the global disease burden of meningitis remains unacceptably high. The analysis also showed that progress against meningitis lags substantially behind that of other vaccine-preventable diseases.


Next, we needed to gather views from a wider range of experts and people affected by meningitis to ensure the roadmap delivered for them. In June 2019, MRF led a significant consultation asking people affected what they wanted to see in the global plan for meningitis. Over 3,000 responded, highlighting that improving prevention was vital, followed by the need for better surveillance. This response helped to shape the global plan to defeat meningitis – prevention and surveillance are two of the five pillars for success included in the draft roadmap.

Read the consultation responses here.

MRF then worked with WHO to organise an expert consultation on this first-ever plan to defeat meningitis. This three-day meeting was held in September 2019 at the Wellcome Trust in central London and supported by the Department for International Development (DFID). Experts from around the world came together to define the activities that would help defeat meningitis. The meeting had over 100 participants, with representatives from governments, global health organisations, public health bodies, academia, private sector and civil society including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Médicins Sans Frontières, PATH and Unicef.


2020 has been a year of many successes for meningitis. WHO finalised the draft roadmap to defeat meningitis by 2030. It includes action on: prevention and epidemic control; diagnosis and treatment; disease surveillance; support and care for people affected by meningitis, and advocacy and engagement. Rather than focussing only on reducing cases, we believe this is the first disease roadmap that has also considered survivors and the need for support and aftercare.

MRF has worked with scientific journal, The Lancet, to produce an article calling for the roadmap to be ‘wholeheartedly supported’.

The WHO have now published their 13th programme of work which, for the first time, includes meningitis prevention.
Image: an image from the WHO’s 13th programme of work showing that meningitis has now been highlighted as an infectious disease of focus.

The roadmap is now being presented at the World Health Assembly in November 2020, where countries will decide whether to take it forward. They do this by voting on a 'resolution' which will prioritise meningitis. If they agree, the roadmap sets out targets and milestones for countries to reach that will save lives and ensure people who survive meningitis get the support they need.
This marks a momentous occasion for meningitis – the first time the World Health Assembly will discuss a meningitis resolution, and the first time global goals to defeat meningitis have been set.

MRF has also developed the Meningitis Progress Tracker, with support from the Tableau Foundation. The tracker has been endorsed as a key tool to support the World Health Organization’s Global Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis. The Roadmap identifies a set of ambitious goals, activities and milestones needed to achieve a vision where bacterial meningitis epidemics are eliminated; cases, deaths and disability are reduced; and quality of life after meningitis is improved. The tracker will help to monitor progress against these goals and identify gaps for action.

We couldn't have got here without the incredible support of our partners on the taskforce (listed below) and the many people affected by meningitis who have lent their voice to and inspired our campaigns.
Defeating Meningitis by 2030: A Global Roadmap
Defeating Meningitis by 2030: A Global Roadmap

Key partners

WHO works worldwide to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.
UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to save children’s lives, to defend their rights, and to help them fulfil their potential, from early childhood through adolescence. And we never give up.
At PATH, we are a global team of innovators working to accelerate health equity so all people and communities can thrive. We advise and partner with public institutions, businesses, grassroots groups, and investors to solve the world’s most pressing health challenges.
An international, independent medical humanitarian organisation
CDC works 24/7 to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S.
Our mission is to improve health and health equity in the UK and worldwide; working in partnership to achieve excellence in public and global health research, education and translation of knowledge into policy and practice
We take action that benefits people directly. including, training health professionals and providing support and information services.
Since the charity was founded in 1989, we have awarded 161 research grants. The total value of our investment in vital scientific research is over £19.1 million (€24.7 million).
We call for positive change as a united voice against meningitis and septicaemia, and a dedicated champion for those it affects.
MRF Chief Executive Vinny Smith explains how we're going to defeat meningitis by 2030.
Give researchers the clues to help defeat meningitis
Give researchers the clues to help defeat meningitis
£160/€190/$214 decodes the genetic information in a sample of meningococcal bacteria. This information helps us to track new forms of meningitis and campaign to introduce new vaccines.
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