Dominican Republic is among the 25 countries with capacity to eliminate malaria by 2025
Twenty-five countries, including Guatemala, Panama, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic, can eliminate malaria in five years, revealed today the World Health Organization (WHO), which announced that another eleven were definitively free of this disease in 2020.
These announcements coincide with the upcoming commemoration of International Malaria Day on April 25. This year revolves around an initiative through which the WHO wants to increase its support for the countries most affected by this infectious disease.
Malaria causes 200 million cases and 400,000 deaths each year globally, 90% of them in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, because they have substantial populations, account for almost 50% of the global presence of the disease,” said the director of the WHO Global Malaria Program, Pedro Alonso.
Almost half of the countries with malaria have fewer than 100,000 cases, which means that they are very close to the total elimination of the disease, he explained.
El Salvador was able to become in February 2021 the first Central American nation certified by WHO as malaria-free after half a century of making efforts to achieve it.
The WHO also reported that in the Greater Mekong subregion in Asia, six countries or regions (Cambodia, China’s Yunnan province, Burma, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam) managed to reduce malaria cases by 97% between 2000 and 2021 and deaths 99%.
ELIMINATION OF MALARIA DURING THE PANDEMIC
Many countries facing malaria adapted the way they care for the sick due to restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Thanks to these efforts, the worst-case scenario feared by the WHO was avoided.
“The World Health Organization estimated that the number of malaria cases in 2020 could double, which would have returned to the levels of twenty years ago,” said the co-chair of an international alliance to end malaria, Melanie Renshaw.
A third of countries reported disruptions in prevention, treatment, and diagnostic services in the first quarter of 2021. In several countries, there were delays in the distribution of mosquito nets and insecticide spraying campaigns.
Many infected people could not or were afraid to go to hospitals to be diagnosed and treated. Hence, the WHO asked the population of places affected by malaria to “overcome fear” and receive the care they need, within the framework of respect covid-19 protocols.
VACCINATION AGAINST MALARIA
Even though the world has been searching for a vaccine against malaria for a century, only one works to reduce the disease, especially in the youngest children, who are the most vulnerable group against this disease.
“The malaria vaccine is infinitely more complex than the COVID vaccine, but it is also a question of financing and political will,” said Alonso.
Most malaria deaths in Africa are in children under the age of five, about 260,000 a year.
The agency said more than 1.7 million doses of the world’s first malaria vaccine had been administered to 650,000 children in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi in the past two years.
According to the WHO, the number of children cared for in that relatively short period indicates a strong community demand for the vaccine.
In 2020, the financing received for that purpose was about 5,500 million, 2,000 million below what is needed to achieve the objectives set, Alonso said.