Washington, D.C., 9 November 2011 (PAHO/WHO) — Three organizations from Honduras, Brazil and Nicaragua were honored this week as Malaria Champions of the Americas for their successful efforts to reduce deaths and illnesses from this disease. The winners were presented during an event marking the 5th annual Malaria Day in the Americas, held at the headquarters of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).
During a panel discussion organized by PAHO/WHO to observe Malaria Day in the Americas, experts noted that the burden of the disease has been dramatically reduced in the Americas and that elimination is considered feasible in certain areas, particularly Mesoamerica and the Southern Cone.
Between 2000 and 2009, the number of cases in the Region declined 52 percent, and the number of deaths declined 68 percent. PAHO Deputy Director Dr. Jon Andrus said this progress was in large part the result of programs like those being honored as Malaria Champions of the Americas.
"Clearly the work done in our countries has ushered our Region into an important stage in its battle against malaria. It seems we are finally wining this battle, but we cannot drop our guard. We need to focus on how we can sustain the impact that has been achieved and work toward elimination of local transmission in areas where this is feasible," said Andrus.
In addition to the Honduran program, two other programs were honored as Malaria Champions of the Americas: the State of Acre Malaria Control Program of Brazil and the Community Surveillance of Malaria through Sentinel Sites program of Nicaragua.
The Acre, Brazil, program succeeded in reducing malaria cases from 93,863 in 2006 to 25,596 in 2010 using a strategy that included social mobilization, health education, and the expanded use of rapid tests in difficult-to-reach areas, among other measures.
Nicaragua's Community Surveillance of Malaria through Sentinel Sites program employed systematic surveys developed by the Network of Community Volunteers and Partners and health teams to assess local malaria transmission patterns. The surveys focused on community attitudes and behaviors, including knowledge about malaria and utilization of bed nets. They were carried out with support from health organizations, a regional university, the Army Medical Corps of Nicaragua, municipal governments, and Nicaragua's Ministry of Education.
PAHO Assistant Director Dr. Socorro Gross noted that the winners of this year's Malaria Champions of the Americas contest had achieved success in part by incorporating elements of approaches such as gender and ethnicity, human rights, health promotion, primary health care and social protection. She also noted the importance of "the political decision adopted by PAHO/WHO that fighting malaria is important," as reflected in the regional plan of action on malaria adopted in September by the PAHO/WHO Directing Council.
Other participants in PAHO/WHO's Malaria Day in the Americas event included Dr. Frederico Guanais, senior health specialist in the Social Protection and Health Division of the Inter-American Development Bank; Dr. Marthelise Eersel, health director for the Ministry of Health of Suriname; Dr. Trenton K. Ruebush, II, senior malaria advisor at the Bureau for Global Health of USAID; Dr. Javier Uribe, advisor in health systems and services at PAHO's country office in Guyana; and Dr. Marcos Espinal, manager of Health Surveillance and Disease Prevention and Control at PAHO/WHO. Edward Kadunc, president of the Pan American Health and Education Foundation (PAHEF), and Ashleigh Black, associate director of the Center for Global Health of George Washington University, also spoke.
Launched in 2007, Malaria Day in the Americas seeks to raise awareness, build commitment and mobilize action to advance malaria goals and targets at the global, regional, country, and community levels. The Malaria Champions of the Americas contest, launched in 2008, seeks to identify, celebrate, and provide avenues to emulate best practices and success stories in malaria prevention and control. Both initiatives are organized each year by PAHO/WHO, PAHEF, and George Washington University's Center for Global Health.
Champions of Health Videos Malaria Champion of The Americas 2011:
- Malaria Control Program of the State of Acre, Brazil
- Malaria Champion Of The Americas 2011: WAMPUSIRPI, Honduras
- Malaria Champion Of The Americas 2011: WASPAN/RAAN, Nicaragua
- PAHO malaria portal: www.paho.org/malaria
- Strategy and Plan of Action on Malaria
- Countries of the Americas Adopt Plan to Reduce Malaria and Prevent its Reintroduction