PAHO underlines importance of sustained malaria efforts and protection of health workers during COVID-19 pandemic

PAHO underlines importance of sustained malaria efforts and protection of health workers during COVID-19 pandemic

The Organization outlines key guidelines on how to stay the course of malaria elimination and support the response against COVID-19

Washington, D.C., 25 April 2020 (PAHO/WHO) — Work to prevent, detect and treat malaria in the Americas must be sustained while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, PAHO/WHO experts said today, citing solidarity with the global community in commemorating World Malaria Day.

It is crucial to sustain efforts in malaria diagnosis, treatment, and surveillance, ensuring that best practices to protect health workers and communities are followed and aligned with national COVID-19 guidelines, Marcos Espinal, Director of the Department of Communicable Diseases said.

In virtual meetings with national malaria program leaders, and partners, experts highlighted to countries of the region the critical importance of maintaining the work to prevent, detect and treat malaria, in synergy with the COVID-19 pandemic response.

Interventions must consider the importance of lowering disease and death caused by malaria, while ensuring the safety of communities and health workers, they added. PAHO/WHO has provided appropriate guidance on how to conduct malaria activities in various scenarios, given the changing context of the COVID-19 situation in the Americas.

Ensuring the appropriate testing and treatment of patients as well as core malaria prevention measures such as insecticide-treated nets and indoor residual spraying are important strategies for reducing the strain on health systems, they said. 

Since implementing the Diagnosis-Treatment-Investigation and Response (DTI-R) strategy in 2018, which links to WHO’s Framework for Malaria Elimination, malaria-endemic areas in the Region have guided their malaria elimination efforts toward preventing, diagnosing, treating, and tracking down cases.

Protecting the gains against malaria and moving forward with key malaria interventions such as reinforcing health and surveillance systems also contributes to better understanding of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, PAHO experts noted.

Malaria elimination achievements and challenges in the Americas

In 2019, Argentina was certified as malaria free, following Paraguay's achievement of that goal in 2018. El Salvador has completed 3 years without local transmission and is likely to be certified as malaria free this year. Belize also had no local transmission in 2019, putting it on track to be certified as malaria-free in 2022.

However, overall, according to WHO's World Malaria Report 2019, there were no global gains in reducing new infections over the period 2014 to 2018. Challenges in the Americas include an increase in transmission related to gold mining and movements of vulnerable population between and within countries, as well as weakening of the actions of malaria programs that may worsen in the context of COVID-19.  

The Pan American Health Organization works with the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples. Founded in 1902, it is the world's oldest international public health organization. It serves as the regional office for the Americas of WHO and is the specialized health agency of the inter-American system.

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