Washington DC, June 21, 2023 – The World Health Organization (WHO) has certified Belize for achieving malaria elimination, a significant milestone more than 70 years in the making. Belize becomes the second Central American country, after El Salvador, and 43rd country worldwide to receive malaria-free certification.
“Belize is the latest success story in the decades-long global fight to end malaria,” said United Nations Foundation President and CEO Elizabeth Cousens. “This milestone is a testament to the power of sustained government commitment and strategic partnerships across borders, sectors, and communities. Together, we can eradicate this deadly disease and deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals’ promise of good health and well-being for all.”
A century ago, it was estimated that malaria caused approximately 10% of all deaths in Belize. Frequent population movement to and from malaria-endemic areas – mainly Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras – has complicated efforts to control the disease.
Nevertheless, Belize made significant progress in the latter 20th century through the strategic use of indoor residual spraying and a national network of community health workers and volunteers, driving down transmission to under 2,000 cases annually by 2000 and under 100 cases by 2011.
This century, the vast majority of cases have occurred in remote rural areas among indigenous and migrant populations. Belize’s government prioritized these high-risk groups, effectively coordinating across sectors and borders to maintain malaria surveillance, provide prompt access to diagnosis and treatment, and respond to every single malaria case. The country reported its last indigenous malaria case in December 2018.
“Today, we celebrate the investment and perseverance of the Belize government, vector control personnel, frontline health workers, and local communities who have diligently worked to wipe out malaria – a disease that was once widespread throughout the country,” said Margaret Reilly McDonnell, Executive Director of the United to Beat Malaria campaign. “Belize’s success should inspire us all to act with renewed urgency to achieve a malaria-free future for the Americas and the world.”
Regional and global partners have played an important role in helping Belize reach and sustain zero cases. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), a longtime technical partner, has helped the Belize government build its capacity for prompt malaria diagnosis, treatment, and surveillance. The Inter-American Development Bank; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the Carlos Slim Foundation; the U.S. Agency for International Development; and the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are among the partners who’ve made catalytic investments in regional elimination efforts that have strengthened Belize’s fight to end malaria.
Over the past seven years, United to Beat Malaria has been proud to support PAHO and other UN partners in the Americas region. This work has helped ensure the most at-risk populations and communities – such as pregnant women, children under five, migrant populations, and indigenous communities with limited access to healthcare – have access to bed nets, rapid diagnostic tests, anti-malarial treatments, and other vital malaria tools.
About United to Beat Malaria
The United to Beat Malaria campaign brings together key and diverse partners and supporters to take urgent action to end malaria and create a healthier, more equitable world. Since 2006, United to Beat Malaria has worked to equip and mobilize citizens across the U.S. and around the world to raise awareness, funds and voices. The campaign works with partners in endemic countries to channel life-saving resources to protect the most marginalized and vulnerable populations. By championing increased leadership, political will and resources from the U.S. and beyond, as well as more holistic, innovative tools and strategies, we can be the generation that ends malaria once and for all. Learn more at www.beatmalaria.org
About the UN Foundation
For 25 years, the UN Foundation has built novel innovations and partnerships to support the United Nations and help solve global problems at scale. As an independent charitable organization, the Foundation was created to work closely with the United Nations to address humanity’s greatest challenges and drive global progress. Learn more at www.unfoundation.org