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Paraguay declared malaria-free, Kenya needs to borrow a leaf

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As part of the recent global great news, the World Health Organization has confirmed Paraguay to be malaria-free.

The health organization certified the country to have eliminated malaria – which hugely contributes to the global mortality especially children under the age of 5 years.

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Dr. Tedros Adhanom, WHO director General said in statement that Paraguay is officially free of malaria and that if the country can eliminate the disease many other countries can do so.

He also commended Paraguay for the latest health development.

Potentially identified

Two years ago, 2016, Paraguay was potentially identified by the world health organization as one of the 21 would-be countries to eliminate malaria by the year 2020 – an initiative called E-2020. These nations include Costa Rica, Ecuador and Mexico and among others.

Regionally, the country is congratulated for the millennium achievement. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) director, Dr. Carissa Etienne called on the regional member countries to follow suit and with all the possible efforts eradicate malaria.

“This is a powerful reminder for the region for what can be achieved when countries are focused on an important goal, and remain vigilant after achieving that goal. We are hopeful that other countries will soon join Paraguay in eliminating malaria”.

Well sought policy

For the last 60 years, armed to the tooth policy wise, Paraguay fought the killer disease – through elimination programmes and fortunately, by 2011, the country recorded its last malaria case. However, by the year 1940, Paraguay had 80,000 cases of malaria.

Part of the endless war to win the disease included 5-year plan that paved the way for free malaria certification.

The plan also included precluding further transmission, tough malaria cases management, strong and active community engagement, public awareness on malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Paraguay’s health minister, while accepting the certification of free malaria, didn’t rule out the challenge of maintaining the status of free malaria, adding that receiving the certification is a recognition of over 5 decades of efforts in the public health sector as well as the community’s role in achieving the dream.

The Global Fund, which backed Paraguay’s 2016 malaria elimination drive through the ministry of health, also celebrated the certification.

Maintaining free-malaria state

“Paraguay’s success demonstrates the importance of investing in robust, sustainable system for health and am very pleased that the Global Fund supported this achievement”, stated Peter Sands, Global Fund Executive Director adding that the current certification should be maintained.

According to WHO, seven countries and territories in the Americas were declared malaria-free between 1960 and 1973 including Cuba, Dominica, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago.

Although malaria cases in the region declined by 61 percent from 62 percent, challenges such as diagnosis, treatment and investigation cases are still rampant.

In Kenya, going by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MOH), 70 percent of the population are at risk of malaria (MOH 2014) – children under the age of 5 and pregnant women being vulnerable to the disease.

Declining mortality rate

In 2012, 2015 and 2016 malaria caused the death of 24,772, 20,691 and 16,000 people respectively.

Furthermore, WHO data also indicates a drop of 8 percent from 11 percent between 2010 and 2015 and areas near Lake Victoria recorded high rate of malaria infections.

Malaria is the second leading cause of death after pneumonia in the country and the government with support from World Health Organization is stepping up measures to reduce the impact of the vector-born disease. Globally over 3 billion people are at risk of malaria.

For a country to be granted free-malaria, it has to meet certain conditions. WHO says “when a country has proven, beyond reasonable doubt, that the chain of local transmission of all human malaria parasite has been interrupted nationwide for at least the past 3 consecutive years; and that a fully functional surveillance and response system that can prevent re-establishment of indigenous transmission is in place”.

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