Abstract Background Global efforts to address the burden of malaria have stagnated in recent years with malaria cases beginning to rise. Substandard and falsified anti-malarial treatments contribute to this stagnation. Poor quality anti-malarials directly affect health outcomes by increasing malaria morbidity and mortality, as well as threaten the effectiveness of treatment by contributing to artemisinin resistance. Research to assess the scope and impact of poor quality anti-malarials is essential to raise awareness and allocate resources to improve the quality of treatment. A probabilistic agent-based model was developed to provide country-specific estimates of the health and economic impact of poor quality anti-malarials on paediatric malaria. This paper presents the methodology and case study of the Substandard and Falsified Antimalarial Research Impact (SAFARI) model developed and applied to Uganda. Results The total annual economic impact of malaria in Ugandan children under age five was estimated at US$614 million. Among children who sought medical care, the total economic impact was estimated at $403 million, including $57.7 million in direct costs. Substandard and falsified anti-malarials were a significant contributor to this annual burden, accounting for $31 million (8% of care-seeking children) in total economic impact involving $5.2 million in direct costs. Further, 9% of malaria deaths relating to cases seeking treatment were attributable to poor quality anti-malarials. In the event of widespread artemisinin resistance in Uganda, we simulated a 12% yearly increase in costs associated with paediatric malaria cases that sought care, inflicting $48.5 million in additional economic impact annually. Conclusions Improving the quality of treatment is essential to combat the burden of malaria and prevent the development of drug resistance. The SAFARI model provides country-specific estimates of the health and economic impact of substandard and falsified anti-malarials to inform governments, policy makers, donors and the malaria community about the threat posed by poor quality medicines. The model findings are useful to illustrate the significance of the issue and inform policy and interventions to improve medicinal quality.