While Nothing But Nets works in Africa, the campaign is paying close attention to progress in other parts of the world, including Asia and the Americas. Tremendous progress towards malaria elimination in these regions serves as an example for Africa, where the burden of malaria is much greater.
Over the past century, the Americas have seen a significant reduction in malaria cases and deaths. Some countries are close to completely eliminating malaria from their borders. On November 6, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) celebrated this progress and discussed the challenges ahead on the 7th-annual Malaria Day in the Americas.
In the Americas, 145 million people living in 21 countries are still at risk for malaria. These countries reported a total of 427,904 malaria cases in 2013 – a 64% reduction compared with the nearly 1.3 million cases reported in 2000. Argentina, Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, and Paraguay are all extremely close to eliminating the transmission of malaria from their borders. Argentina has even requested that the World Health Organization certify that it is malaria-free!
Part of this progress in the fight against malaria can be attributed to innovative interventions. The Dominican Republic was honored at this celebration for their well-organized and integrated approach to malaria reduction. Their National Malaria Control program closely tracks individual cases of malaria and even goes door to door to seek out and test anyone who has had a fever. The program also works closely with its neighbor, Haiti, to reduce the transmission of malaria across the border.
You can see short videos about efforts to reduce malaria in the Dominican Republic and other parts of Latin America HERE.
Dr. Pedro Alonso, director of the World Health Organization’s Global Malaria Program, joined the celebration and emphasized three points critical for continuing progress. First, countries need to take ownership of the local fight against malaria to sustain the current progress. Second, interventions need to focus on equity, as marginalized and minority populations will be the hardest and last to reach. Third, more research and development of new insecticides and anti-malarial drugs are necessary to combat drug and insecticide resistance. Most importantly, there needs to be leadership committed to finishing the job of eradicating malaria quickly in the Americas. One of the biggest challenges to elimination in the Americas and beyond is lack of political will and funding.
The progress and innovative interventions in the Americas demonstrates that malaria elimination worldwide is achievable. However, there is still much work to be done.