Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Algeria has been officially recognized as malaria-free, becoming the third country in Africa to be officially declared malaria-free, after Mauritius, which was certified in 1973 and Morocco in 2010.
The certification by the World Health Organisation is granted when a country proves beyond a reasonable doubt, that it has interrupted the chain of indigenous transmission of the disease for at least 3 consecutive years. Records indicate that Algeria last reported its last case of indigenous malaria in 2013. This is in addition to a national surveillance system capable of rapidly detecting and responding to any malaria cases l, together with an effective programme to prevent re-establishment of the disease.
Contracted through the bite of an infected mosquito, malaria remains one of the world’s leading killers, with an estimated 219 million cases and over 400 000 malaria-related deaths in 2017. Approximately 60 per cent of fatalities is among children aged under five years.
Algeria is where the malaria parasite was first discovered in humans in 1880, almost a century and a half ago by French physician Dr Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran. By the 1960s, malaria had become the country’s primary health challenge, with an estimated 80,000 cases reported each year.
But thanks to a well-trained health workforce, the provision of malaria diagnosis and treatment through universal health care, and rapid response to disease outbreaks, the country has recorded a milestone to reach – and maintain – zero malaria cases.
Algeria provided free diagnosis and treatment within its borders, ensuring no one was left behind in getting the services they needed to prevent, detect and cure the disease.
The country has an excellent healthcare system that extends even to remote areas of the country. All healthcare services, including malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment, are provided free of charge to anyone within its borders including migrants.
Over the last decade, improved surveillance allowed for every last case of malaria to be rapidly identified and treated, according to a report by the World Health Organisation.
“Now Algeria has shown the rest of Africa that malaria can be beaten through country leadership, bold action, sound investment and science, says the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti. He implores the rest of the continent to learn from Algeria’s experience.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has also declared Argentina Malaria Free, close to fifty years since the country set out to eliminate malaria. Argentina is the second country in the WHO Region of the Americas to be certified in 45 years, after Paraguay in June 2018.
Key elements of its approach included training health workers to spray homes with insecticides, diagnosing the disease through microscopy, and effectively responding to cases in the community. Cross-Border collaboration was also critical. Between 2000 and 2011, Argentina worked closely with the Government of Bolivia to spray more than 22, 000 homes in border areas and conduct widespread malaria testing. Argentina reported the last indigenous case in 2010.
“Algeria and Argentina have eliminated malaria thanks to the unwavering commitment and perseverance of the people and leaders of both countries,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Their success serves as a model for other countries working to end this disease once and for all.”
The certificates were presented by the WHO Director-General to representatives from Algeria and Argentina on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the World Health Assembly.
Globally, a total of 38 countries and territories have now been declared malaria-free: In the recent past, the countries included the Maldives in 2015, Sri Lanka in 2016, and Uzbekistan and Paraguay in 2018.