UN chief commends all countries reaching zero malaria goal

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commended all countries that have reached the target of zero malaria.

“We commend all countries that have reached the ambitious target of zero malaria,” said the secretary-general in his message for the World Malaria Day, which falls on April 25 annually, Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday.

“Together, they are showing the world that a malaria-free future is possible,” he added.

Between 2000 and 2019, the number of countries with fewer than 100 indigenous malaria cases increased from six to 27, the top UN official cited the statistics of the World Health Organization (WHO) as showing, calling it “a strong indicator” that malaria elimination is within reach.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the multiple crises it has sparked, a growing number of countries are approaching and achieving malaria elimination, the UN chief said.

Countries with zero malaria have reached the people at risk with the necessary services, from prevention to detection and treatment, regardless of citizenship or financial status, Guterres said.

“Sustained funding, surveillance systems and community engagement have been the key to success,” he added.

Yet, while these achievements deserve celebrating, it is important to remember the millions around the world who continue to suffer and die from this deadly illness, the secretary-general noted.

Each year, malaria claims the lives of more than 400,000 people, mainly young children in Africa. And, every year, there are more than 200 million new cases of this fatal parasitic disease.

With robust political commitment, adequate investment and the right mix of strategies, “malaria can be defeated,” said the secretary-general.

In 2019, Africa shouldered 94 per cent of all malaria cases and deaths worldwide, with more than half of all cases occurring in five countries including Nigeria, 27 per cent; Democratic Republic of the Congo, 12 percent; Uganda and Niger, 5 per cent each; and Mozambique, 4 per cent, according to WHO.

During that same period, about 3 per cent of malaria cases were reported in Southeast Asia and 2 per cent in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

The Americas and Western Pacific region each accounted for fewer than 1 per cent of all cases.

Certification of malaria elimination is WHO’s official recognition of a country’s malaria-free status, which it grants when a state has proven, beyond reasonable doubt, that the chain of indigenous malaria transmission has been interrupted nationwide for at least the past three consecutive years.

Following 50 years of solid commitment by the government and people of El Salvador to end the disease, in February it became the first country in Central America to receive the distinction.

Meanwhile China, which zero registered indigenous cases in 2016 and has stayed malaria-free to date, applied last year for the WHO malaria-free certification.

World Malaria Day is an international observance commemorated every year on April 25 and recognizes global efforts to control malaria. The international day was established in May 2007 by the 60th session of the World Health Assembly, WHO’s decision-making body.