…launches initiative to end malaria in 25 countries
By Hassan Zaggi
The World Health Organisation (WHO), has advised residents of malaria affected countries to go to the health facility to test for malaria when they have fever so as to receive the needed care.
This, it said, should be done within the context of the COVID-19 protocols.
In a statement to mark the World Malaria Day, the WHO disclosed that it is launching a new initiative aimed at halting transmission of the disease in 25 more countries by 2025.
It, however, identified political commitment, domestic funding and strong Primary Health Care system as key drivers to eliminating malaria in affected countries.
The statement revealed that of the 87 countries with malaria, 46 reported fewer than 10 000 cases of the disease in 2019 compared to 26 countries in 2000.
By the end of 2020, 24 countries had reported interrupting malaria transmission for 3 years or more. Of these, 11 were certified malaria-free by WHO.
Commenting, the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “Many of the countries we are recognizing today carried, at one time, a very high burden of malaria. Their successes were hard-won and came only after decades of concerted action.
“Together, they have shown the world that malaria elimination is a viable goal for all countries.”
While noting that though each country’s elimination journey is unique, common drivers of success have been seen across all regions.
“Success is driven, first and foremost, by political commitment within a malaria-endemic country to end the disease.
“This commitment is translated into domestic funding that is often sustained over many decades, even after a country is malaria-free,” Dr Pedro Alonso, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme, explained.
“Most countries that reach zero malaria have strong primary health care systems that ensure access to malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment services, without financial hardship, for everyone living within their borders – regardless of nationality or legal status.
“Robust data systems are also key to success, together with strong community engagement.
“Many countries that eliminate malaria have relied on dedicated networks of volunteer health workers to detect and treat the disease in remote and hard-to-reach areas,” the statement noted.
On how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the fight against malaria, the WHO said: “In 2020, COVID-19 emerged as a serious challenge to malaria responses worldwide. Since the early days of the pandemic, WHO has urged countries to maintain essential health services, including for malaria, while ensuring that communities and health workers are protected from COVID-19 transmission.
“Heeding the call, many malaria-endemic countries mounted impressive responses to the pandemic, adapting the way they deliver malaria services to the COVID-19 restrictions imposed by governments.
“As a result of these efforts, the worst-case scenario of a WHO modelling analysis was likely averted.
“The analysis found that if access to nets and antimalarial medicines was severely curtailed, the number of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa could double in 2020 compared to 2018.”