The World Health Organization on Wednesday certified China as free of malaria after a 70-year effort to eradicate mosquito-borne disease.
The country reported 30 million cases of infectious disease annually in the 1940s, but has now spent four consecutive years without an indigenous case.
“We congratulate the people of China for eliminating the country against malaria,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“Its success was hard earned and came only after decades of targeted and sustained action. With this announcement, China joins the growing number of countries proving to the world that a malaria-free future is a viable goal.” .
Countries that have achieved at least three consecutive years of zero indigenous cases may apply for WHO certification of their malaria-free status. They must present rigorous evidence and demonstrate the ability to prevent transmission from reappearing.
China becomes the 40th WHO-certified malaria-free territory based in Geneva.
The last countries to obtain the status were El Salvador (2021), Algeria and Argentina (2019) and Paraguay and Uzbekistan (2018).
There is a separate list of 61 countries where malaria never existed or disappeared without specific measures.
Global advancement of progress
China is the first country in the WHO Western Pacific region to obtain malaria-free certification in more than three decades.
The only others with a certificate are Australia (1981), Singapore (1982) and Brunei (1987).
The WHO Global Malaria Report 2020 stated that global progress against the disease was spreading, especially in African countries with the weight of cases and deaths.
He annual report, published in November, said that after falling steadily from 736,000 in 2000, the disease caused an estimated life of 411,000 lives in 2018 and 409,000 in 2019.
Meanwhile, in 2019 the global number of malaria cases was estimated at 229 million, a figure that has been at the same level for the past four years.
More than 90 percent of malaria deaths occur in Africa, the majority (more than 265,000) in young children.
The pioneering battle against malaria in China
In the 1950s, Beijing began working on spreading malaria and began combating it with preventive antimalarial drugs, the WHO said.
The country reduced mosquito breeding areas and intensified spraying insecticides on homes.
In 1967, China launched a scientific program to find new treatments for malaria, which led to the discovery in the 1970s of artemisinin, the basic compound of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), which are the most effective antimalarial drugs available.
In the 1980s, China was one of the first countries to widely test the use of insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria. By 1988, more than 2.4 million had been distributed nationwide.
By the end of 1990, the number of malaria cases in China had dropped to 117,000 and deaths had dropped by 95%.
“China’s ability to think outside the box served the country well in its own response to malaria, and it also had a significant effect globally,” said Pedro Alonso, director of the global malaria program. the WHO.
Surveillance of the southern border
From 2003 onwards, China intensified its efforts in general, reducing the annual number of cases to about 5,000 in ten years.
After four consecutive years of zero indigenous cases, China applied for WHO certification in 2020.
Experts traveled to China in May this year to verify their malaria-free status and their plans to prevent the disease from returning.
The risk of imported cases remains a concern, not only among people returning from sub-Saharan Africa and other regions affected by malaria, but also in the southern province of Yunnan, which borders Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, all fighting the disease.
© 2021 AFP
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