The volunteers work closely with public health teams and programs for malaria surveillance that have been maintained and fortified by the Salvadoran government over the years. It is this coordination between volunteers and national public health systems that has been one of the key actions allowing El Salvador to succeed in eliminating malaria.
“This [certification] couldn’t be reached without the involvement of the community, civil society organizations, local authorities committed health staff and the support of international agencies such as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO),” said Eduardo Romero, head of the vector-borne disease unit of El Salvador’s Ministry of Health.
Today more than 5,000 people, including health workers and community volunteers, are working to keep malaria from reemerging in El Salvador. The program has its origins in the National Malaria Program, which formed in the 1950s; the recruitment of community volunteers was among its first achievements. The volunteers sent their data on malaria cases to vector control health workers, which allowed the anti-malaria program to target the locations most hard hit.
After decades of progress, El Salvador experienced a surge in malaria cases. Mosquitoes had developed a resistance to DDT, the pesticide used to control them. In 1980, there were 96,000 cases of malaria – a peak. El Salvador reoriented its malaria program with the support of PAHO, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).