Researchers in Kenya and Britain say they are creating a global map to pinpoint locations where malaria is most likely to strike.
Malaria is transmitted by a mosquito bite
They say it will help fight the mosquito-borne disease by enabling individual countries to work out infection rates and required drugs.
The map should be complete within 18 months, the researchers say.
Some 40% of the world's population, mostly in poor tropical nations, are at risk of malaria, studies suggest.
Malaria is preventable and curable, but can be fatal if not treated promptly.
It kills more than a million people a year - mostly young children in sub-Saharan Africa - and is a factor in many other deaths.
Writing in the open access journal Plos Medicine, the researchers say they are gathering information for the Malaria Atlas Project (Map).
It will be based on malaria data from past surveys, population censuses and satellite data and other sources.
At present, national reporting of malaria is highly inadequate and is often based on best guesses, the researchers say.
"Resources for tackling malaria are driven by a mixture of perception and politics rather than an objective assessment of need," Dr Simon Hay, of the University of Oxford and the Kenya Medical Research Institute told Reuters news agency.
"Clearly, this situation is untenable," he said.
No-one knows for sure how many people contract malaria and estimates vary.
The World Health Organization puts the number at about 300 million cases annually. About 90% of infections are in Africa.