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Malaria elimination talks hosted by China

The conference’s focus was on eliminating malaria among populations at risk.

27 Jun 2019

China has hosted the third E-2020 global forum of malaria-eliminating countries. The conference’s focus was on eliminating malaria among populations at risk.

The World Health Organisation grants a certificate of malaria elimination when a country has proven beyond reasonable doubt that the chain of indigenous transmission has been interrupted nationwide for at least the three previous consecutive years.

A national surveillance system capable of rapidly detecting and responding to any malaria cases must also be operational, as does a program to prevent re-establishment of transmission, before the certificate can be granted.

There are currently 38 countries and territories globally that are certified malaria-free.

According to a WHO report, much of 21st century medicine is still spent battling ancient diseases. Malaria is such an old disease that there are references to it in China dating back more than 3500 years in inscriptions on bones, tortoise shells and bronzeware, the report says.

The circular nature of transmission of the parasite, from human to mosquito and back to human, the ability of the parasites to form resistance to treatments and the mosquitoes to insecticides, and the complex life cycle of the parasites makes malaria a tough disease to eliminate. 

Yet many countries have made impressive strides in controlling and stamping out malaria. In 2016, WHO identified 21 malaria-endemic countries that could feasibly eliminate the disease by 2020. Together, these countries form the E-2020 initiative and are part of a concerted effort to drive indigenous malaria cases to zero within the 2020 timeline.

In 2018, Paraguay became the first E-2020 country to be certified by WHO as malaria-free, and this year Algeria was awarded the same status. Three other countries – the Islamic Republic of Iran, Malaysia and Timor-Leste – achieved zero indigenous cases of malaria in 2018. China and El Salvador, meanwhile, have been at zero since 2017, and Cabo Verde has been malaria-free since January 2018.

WHO’s Global technical strategy for malaria, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2015, calls for the elimination of malaria in at least 10 countries by the end of next year. “We are very much on track to have 10 E-2020 countries at zero cases in 2020,” said Dr Frank Richards, chair of the Malaria Elimination Oversight Committee – an independent WHO advisory body that guides countries in their efforts to eliminate malaria – and an expert in parasitic diseases at The Carter Center, Atlanta, USA. 

In June, China hosted the third E-2020 global forum of malaria-eliminating countries in in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, with a specific focus on eliminating malaria in populations at high risk of contracting malaria.

The WHO praises China as a good example of what happens when a country is determined to eliminate malaria. In China, elimination of malaria became a joint goal of 13 ministries, including health, finance, industry, and education. The results were impressive and the country has gone from 30 million cases in the 1940s to zero indigenous cases in 2017.

Published: 27 Jun 2019