This year's award recognizes the efforts of the Americas toward eliminating the disease, a commitment made by 18 of the 21 endemic countries in the region

Washington, DC, November 3, 2016 (PAHO/WHO) - Fifteen years ago, malaria afflicted about 2,000 people in Costa Rica. The country's control efforts paid off and since 2013 the country has reported no autochthonous cases of the disease. For these achievements, Costa Rica, along with El Salvador and Suriname, is one of the three winners of the Malaria Champions award, presented  by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

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 PAHO, the regional office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Costa Rica has achieved a 100% decrease in malaria cases since 2000. This success was achieved through the implementation of its National Plan to Eliminate Malaria, which includes supervised treatment and home visits by Basic Comprehensive Care Teams (EBAIS), who on horseback, motorcycle, boat or on foot, visit the communities. Its network of 126 laboratories and integration of malaria in the health care network swiftly detect and prevent disease outbreaks.

For its part, El Salvador has achieved a reduction of 98.9% in cases since 2000, and has reported no deaths since 1998. In 2014, 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 is attributed to the strengthening of surveillance activities of the Ministry of Health, active case detection, supervised treatment and strong national funding.

In Suriname, 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, the country 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. 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 $ 2,500 to encourage their efforts against malaria. All winners received a plaque of appreciation. In addition, videos on each of these best practices will be disseminated at regional level. The prizes have been awarded for the past eight years.

Towards eliminating malaria

At the regional level, between 2000 and 2014, an expansion of malaria interventions helped reduce cases by 67% (from almost 1.2 million in 2000 to 375,000 in 2014) and malaria-related deaths by 79% ( from 390 in 2000 to 89 in 2014). These figures are well above the world average of 37% case reduction and 60% reduction in deaths.

Now, PAHO's Plan of Action for Malaria Elimination in the Americas 2016 - 2020, which is aligned with the Global Technical Strategy (GTS) from WHO aims to help countries to accelerate action and increase investments to end this disease by 2030.

As part of a panel of experts organized by PAHO and its partners in Washington to celebrate Malaria Day in the Americas, Admiral Timothy Ziemer, global coordinator for the President's  Malaria Initiative, said that investment to control malaria is a smart decision because it protects health, promotes development, and benefits the poorest.

Ziemer outlined how the fight against malaria has transformed over the last decade from control efforts to the bold and daring vision of elimination. He praised the progress in the Region, noting that malaria is still a large challenge and the US is committed to working with PAHO and partners for its elimination 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," said Becerra. He said we 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.

End malaria for good is the theme of Malaria Day in the Americas 2016, held on November 6. It refers to the possibility that the world can end the disease by 2030. This day was created ten years ago to promote actions against malaria in the region, including  the Malaria Champions Award. In the past eight years 21 initiatives from ten countries in the continent have received awards, and shared best practices and experiences in combating the disease.

The Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, the Center for Communication Programs, Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins and the United Nations Foundation, are partners of PAHO / WHO in these initiatives.

Links

Malaria Champions of the Americas 2016
- Costa Rica El SalvadorSuriname
Malaria Day in the Americas 2016
Plan of Action for Malaria Elimination 2016-2020
George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health
- Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs
- United Nations Foundation 

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