Health

Paraguay now malaria-free

The country has worked on eliminating the disease for more than five decades and finally found success

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Tuesday 12 June 2018 | 05:19:20 AM
In 2016, the WHO had identified 21 countries where they could eliminate malaria by 2020. Credit: 41330/Pixabay
In 2016, the WHO had identified 21 countries where they could eliminate malaria by 2020. Credit: 41330/Pixabay In 2016, the WHO had identified 21 countries where they could eliminate malaria by 2020. Credit: 41330/Pixabay

Paraguay has become the first country in the Americas to be granted the malaria-free status by the World Health Organization since 1973.

“It gives me great pleasure to certify that Paraguay is officially free of malaria,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General. “Success stories like Paraguay’s show what is possible. If malaria can be eliminated in one country, it can be eliminated in all countries.”

In 2016, the WHO had identified 21 countries, including Paraguay, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador and others, where they could eliminate malaria by 2020 and include them in the ‘E-2020 initiative’.

Dr Carissa F Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), WHO regional office for the Americas, said, “This is a powerful reminder for the region of what can be achieved when countries are focused on an important goal, and remain vigilant after achieving that goal. We are hopeful that other countries will soon join Paraguay in eliminating malaria.”

Achiever’s journey

Launched in 1950, Paraguay has been, through policies and programmes, trying to control the disease as it had reported more than 80 000 cases in the 1940s. “Receiving this certification is a recognition of more than five decades of hard work in Paraguay, both on the part of public sector workers, as well as the community itself, who have collaborated time and time again in order to achieve the elimination of malaria,” said Dr Carlos Ignacio Morínigo, Minister of Health of Paraguay.

Then, in 2016, with an aim to strengthen its capacity to prevent disease, identify suspected malaria cases, accurately diagnose malaria and provide prompt treatment, the country’s Ministry of Health launched a  three-year elimination drive. This included building their front-line health workers’ skills.

“We need to remain vigilant and prevent resurgence, but we also need to celebrate this victory,” said Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which backed Paraguay’s initiative.

Between 1960 and 1973, seven countries and territories from the Americas were certified malaria-free: Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and the northern part of Venezuela. “Reaching this goal also implies that we must now face the challenge of maintaining it. Therefore, Paraguay has put in place a solid surveillance and response system in order to prevent the re-establishment of malaria,” said Dr Ignacio.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Related Story:

Fake drugs are one reason malaria still kills so many

Rise in malaria cases in 2016 may be due to decline in health aid

Severe and mixed malaria infections posing new challenges

Diseases, lack of continuum of care perpetuating malnutrition among children: experts

IEP Resources:

The decline of malaria in Vietnam, 1991–2014

Malaria diagnosis by PCR revealed differential distribution of mono and mixed species infections by Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax in India

The US President's Malaria Initiative, Plasmodium falciparum transmission and mortality: A modelling study

Housing improvements and malaria risk in sub-Saharan Africa: A multi-country analysis of survey data

We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.