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Five countries had zero malaria cases in 2018: WHO

Four countries from Asia — China, Iran, Malaysia and Timor-Leste — and one from Central America — El Salvador — reported no indigenous cases of malaria in 2018, according to the World Health Organzation (WHO).


While China and El Salvador reported zero cases for the second consecutive year; Iran, Malaysia and Timor-Leste had zero cases of malaria for the first time in 2018, showed the E-2020 initiative:2019 progress report.


The countries were part of the global health bodys E-2020 initiative, launched in 2016, working in 21 countries, spanning five regions, to scale up efforts to achieve malaria elimination by 2020.


From 5,194 malaria cases in 2010, to 85 cases in 2017, Malaysia reported zero cases in 2018. Prompt diagnosis, treatment and surveillance in remote, hard-to-reach regions helped the country achieve the target, two years ahead of the 2020 deadline, the report showed


In 2018, Iran reported zero indigenous malaria cases as compared to more than 1,800 in 2010.


Timor-Leste, that came into existence in 2000, remarkably lowered the disease rate — from a high of 223,002 cases in 2006, to 95 cases in 2016, to zero cases in 2018.


Decades of large-scale control and elimination efforts, helped China reduce malaria transmission significantly for the second consecutive year. The country had an estimated 30 million cases and 300,000 deaths a year in the 1940s, the report noted.


This report documents the good progress overall towards achieving the 2020 elimination milestone of the global strategy,” Pedro Alonso, director of Global Malaria Programme at WHO.


Reaching malaria-free status is a critically important public health and sustainable development goal


However, a substantial commitment is still needed to get at least 10 countries across the finish line by the end of next year. We must focus on shared solutions,” he added.


Besides eliminating the disease, preventing its re-establishment is more important and requires maintaining robust technical capabilities, integrating malaria activities into public health — a high level of vigilance to identify suspected cases, diagnose them quickly is essential, the WHO suggested.


In 2015, the World Health Assembly approved a Global Technical Strategy for Malaria to eliminate malaria by 2030. The strategy targeted 2020 to eliminate malaria in at least 10 countries. According to a WHO analysis published in 2016, 21 countries showed the potential to eliminate malaria by 2020.


The 21 countries, were identified by WHO, on the basis of:


Trends in malaria case incidence between 2000 and 2016

Declared malaria objectives of affected countries

Opinions of WHO experts

Earlier in May 2019, the WHO declared Algeria and Argentina as malaria-free. The last case of indigenous malaria was reported from Algeria in 2013 and Argentina in 2010.


Algeria became the second E-2020 country to achieve certification, after Paraguay was certified malaria-free by WHO last year.


Uzbekistan and Argentina, though not E-2020 countries, were also awarded the malaria-free certification in 2018 and 2019, respectively, the WHO said.


Contracted through the bite of an infected mosquito, malaria remains one of the world’s leading killers. It accounted for an estimated 219 million cases from 87 countries and over 400,000 related deaths in 2017.


Over 60 per cent of fatalities were among children under five years, and caused 266,000 of all malaria deaths worldwide, according to WHOs World malaria report 2018.


India (4 per cent) was among the five countries, the others being — Nigeria (25 per cent), Democratic Republic of the Congo (11 per cent), Mozambique (5 per cent), and Uganda (4 per cent) — that accounted for nearly 50 per cent of all malaria cases worldwide.


The country was also among the 11 countries — 10 in Africa (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania) — that reported approximately 70 per cent of all malaria cases (151 million) and deaths (274,000).


Among these countries, only India reported progress in reducing its malaria cases in 2017 (24 per cent reduction in cases) compared to 2016, according to the report.