Paraguay has officially eliminated Malaria, confirms WHO


Paraguay has officially eliminated Malaria, confirms WHO

The World Health Organisation have today certified that Paraguay has eliminated Malaria, the first country in the Americas to achieve this health landmark since Cuba in 1973.

Dr TedrosAdhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, commented on the achievement:

“It gives me great pleasure today to certify that Paraguay is officially free of malaria…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 Paraguay was identified by WHO as one of 21 countries that could eliminate the disease by 2020. WHO has supported these countries on their path to elimination through the E-2020 initiative; other countries on the list include China, Malaysia, Ecuador and Iran.

At least 10 other of the E-2020 countries are on track to eliminate Malaria by 2020; however, 8 have experienced an increase in cases.

 Dr Carissa F Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), WHO regional office for the Americas congratulated Paraguay, noting:

“I take pride in saying that PAHO has accompanied Paraguay in the crusade of malaria elimination since the beginning”

“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”

In the 1940’s Malaria was a critical health issue for Paraguay, in order to overcome the disease the government developed systematic policies to control and eliminate it. The last recorded case of Plasmodium falciparum malaria was in 1995 and P. vivax malaria in 2011.

Following 2011, a five year plan was introduced to prevent Malaria re-establishing itself and prepare for official certification of elimination. The plan focused on case management, community engagement and education to improve awareness of transmission, diagnosis and treatment.

In 2016 the elimination drive entered its next phase; the Ministry of Health launched an initiative to improve the skills of front line health workers to increase the health system’s capacity of preventing disease, identifying cases and providing prompt and effective treatment.

Dr Carlos Ignacio Morínigo, Minister of Health of Paraguay, commented:

“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,”

“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.”

Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund, noted how Paraguay’s success demonstrates the effectiveness of robust health systems in achieving sustainable health improvements.

The significant progress in eliminating Malaria comes shortly after experts warned about the disease’s resurgence, largely driven by mosquitoes becoming resistant to insecticides and anti-malarial treatments.

 

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Image credit: World Health Organisation


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