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WHO declares Algeria, Argentina malaria-free

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Algeria and Argentina as malaria-free, with no recorded cases of indigenous transmission of the disease since 2013 and 2010 respectively. 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 WHO's World malaria report 2018.

“Algeria and Argentina have eliminated malaria thanks to the unwavering commitment and perseverance of the people and leaders of both countries,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said in a statement on May 22. “Their success serves as a model for other countries working to end this disease once and for all,” he added. Efforts such as improved surveillance, which allowed for every last case of malaria to be rapidly identified and treated, free diagnosis and treatment to ensure no one was left behind, helped to prevent, detect and cure the disease, WHO said. Malaria parasite was first discovered in Algeria by French physician Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran in 1880. By the 1960s, the disease became the country’s primary health challenge, with an estimated 80,000 cases reported each year. The global healthy body noted that well-trained health workforce, the provision for diagnosis and treatment through universal health care, and a rapid response to disease outbreaks, helped Algeria to achieve as well as maintain zero malaria case.

“Algeria is where the malaria parasite was first discovered in humans almost a century and a half ago, and that was a significant milestone in responding to the disease,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa. With 92 per cent of malaria cases and 93 per cent of malaria deaths recorded from Africa, the region had a high share of the global malaria burden in 2017. Four countries in the continent accounted for nearly half of all malaria cases worldwide: Nigeria (25 per cent), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (11 per cent), Mozambique (five per cent), and Uganda (four per cent), the World malaria report 2018 showed. Moeti said Algeria can be an example to these countries.

Argentina, on the other hand, began eliminating in the 1970s. The South American country trained health workers to spray homes with insecticides as well as diagnose the disease through microscopy. The country also initiated cross-border collaboration and worked closely with the Government of Bolivia. Between 2000 and 2011, more than 22,000 homes in border areas were sprayed with insecticides and widespread malaria testing was conducted. While Algeria is the second African country to be officially recognised as malaria-free, after Mauritius (certified in 1973), Argentina is the second country in the Americas to be certified in 45 years, after Paraguay in June 2018. To receive WHO certification, a country has to prove that it has interrupted indigenous transmission of the disease for at least three consecutive years. A total of 36 countries and territories have received this WHO certification. The last case of indigenous malaria was reported from Algeria in 2013 and Argentina in 2010. The certificates will be presented on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the World Health Assembly.

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