The Washington, D.C.-based Pan American Health Organization has recognized Suriname, along with Costa Rica, and El Salvador, for drastically reducing malaria cases and deaths, rewarding them with the “Malaria Champions Award.”
Advances in these countries “assert further our belief that we can effectively eliminate malaria in several areas (in the region) in the coming years,” said Francisco Becerra, assistant director of the organization, the regional office for the Americas of the World Health Organization.
Costa Rica has achieved a 100 percent decrease in malaria cases since 2000, according to the group, which attributed this success to the implementation of National Plan to Eliminate Malaria, which includes supervised treatment and home visits by Basic Comprehensive Care Teams, who on horseback, motorcycle, boat or foot, visit the communities.
The nation plan’s network of 126 laboratories and integration of malaria in the health care network swiftly detect and prevent disease outbreaks in Costa Rica, the group said.
It said El Salvador has achieved a reduction of 98.9 percent in cases since 2000, and has reported no deaths since 1998.
In 2014, the agency said the country recorded only eight confirmed cases of malaria, two of which were imported. The figure was the lowest in the country’s history.
Success in El Salvador is attributed to the strengthening of surveillance activities of the Ministry of Health, active case detection, supervised treatment and strong national funding, the group said.
In Suriname, the organization said malaria has been virtually eliminated in the inland villages, which previously had the highest rates of transmission of the Americas, and have been reduced to less than 90 indigenous cases each year.
In 2014 and 2015, Pan American said the Caribbean Community member-state recorded no deaths from the disease.
“These advances were achieved through highly proactive and innovative interventions focused primarily in the areas and populations at risk, such as irregular mining operations,” according to the group. “The country improved access to diagnosis and treatment in areas of difficult access, created a malaria clinic in the capital and generated public-private partnerships to stop the disease.”
Costa Rica received a prize of U.S.$ 2,500 to encourage their efforts against malaria. All winners received a plaque of appreciation.
In addition, the group said videos on each of these best practices will be disseminated at regional level. The prizes have been awarded for the past eight years.
At the regional level, the organization said between 2000 and 2014, an expansion of malaria interventions helped reduce cases by 67 percent (from almost 1.2 million in 2000 to 375,000 in 2014) and malaria-related deaths by 79 percent (from 390 in 2000 to 89 in 2014).
These figures are well above the world average of 37 percent case reduction and 60 percent reduction in deaths.
The Plan of Action for Malaria Elimination in the Americas 2016–2020, which is aligned with the Global Technical Strategy from World Health Organization, aims to help countries to accelerate action and increase investments to end this disease by 2030.
“Malaria remains a formidable challenge in the region and is more difficult to control and eliminate between populations in situations of vulnerability, such as indigenous peoples, migrants, miners and farm workers,” Becerra said.
He said regional countries should not underestimate the disease, even after these achievements, because outbreaks can occur not only in endemic countries but also in those which are free of malaria.
The Pan American Health Organization said “End Malaria for Good” is the theme of Malaria Day in the Americas 2016, held on Nov. 6. It refers to the possibility that the world can end the disease by 2030.
This day was created 10 years ago to promote actions against malaria in the region, including the Malaria Champions Award, the group said.
In the past eight years, the organization said 21 initiatives from 10 countries in the continent have received awards, and shared best practices and experiences in combating the disease.