The World Health organization is calling on countries that have been certified malaria-free to remain vigilant to prevent return of the disease.
The health body stated this in a statement to mark the World Malaria Day celebration.It also noted that any imported cases of the disease must be identified and treated rapidly. “Countries should maintain up-to-date malaria surveillance systems and ensure that health workers at all levels are continuously trained on how to prevent, detect and treat the disease.”WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom, Ghebreyesus, said many of the countries that are being recognized 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. Though each country’s elimination journey is unique, common drivers of success have been seen across all regions.”The health body also launched a new initiative, aimed at halting transmission of the disease in 25 more countries by 2025. “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 moreDirector of WHO Global Malaria Programme, Pedro Alonso, said there is need for political commitment within a malaria endemic country in order to end the disease. “The commitment is translated into domestic funding that is often sustained over many decades, even after a country is malaria-free.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 border, regardless of nationality or legal status.”He said 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.”In addition, 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.However, more than one year into the pandemic, substantial disruptions to health services persist across the globe.” According to the results of a new WHO survey, approximately one third of countries around the world reported disruptions in malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment services during the first quarter of 2021. “In many countries, lockdowns and restrictions on the movement of people and goods have led to delays in the delivery of insecticide-treated mosquito nets or indoor insecticide spraying campaigns. Malaria diagnosis and treatment services were interrupted as many people were unable, or unwilling to seek care in health facilities.”WHO is therefore calling on all people living in malaria affected countries to “beat the fear”. “People with fever should go to the nearest health facility to be tested for malaria,and receive the care they need, within the context of national COVID-19 protocols.”