Dr. Melissa Diaz, Belize’s Director of Public Health and Wellness, has seen the evolution of Belize’s malaria fight over the past 30+ years.
“In the late eighties, we had malaria in the thousands, up to the mid-nineties,” Dr. Diaz said. “It has been a constant decrease from the late-nineties up to now. … It is a very proud time for us in Belize, to say that we’ve had zero cases since December 2018. We are mindful that this can change, and for that reason, we need to ensure that what we have achieved is sustainable.”
Dr. Diaz and her team spearhead efforts to prevent the resurgence of malaria.
“We’ve trained doctors, nurses, administrators, PCAs, every aspect, every level of care, so that we all remember malaria, and we remember to test for it,” Dr. Diaz said.
As part of a broader public health strategy, Dr. Diaz and her team have expanded the country’s network of community health workers who provide education, prevention tools, and screening of malaria and other diseases.
“We have about 200 community health workers, country-wide. These community health workers were chosen by the community,” Dr. Diaz said. “They get training in health care, training in management of certain illnesses, and they provide our ears and eyes in the community that is most vulnerable.”
Partnerships have also played a key role in helping Belize reach and sustain zero malaria cases.
“Throughout the last few years, we have been able to be part of the Regional Malaria Elimination Initiative, and that has helped us tremendously,” Dr. Diaz said. “Belize has also received significant support from the Pan American Health Organization [PAHO]. PAHO has not only supported with technical support, but also with monetary support, human resources, so they have been an excellent partnership for us.”
Learn more about Dr. Diaz’s story in this film.