WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is urging Caribbean countries to take urgent action to stem the increase in malaria cases, maintain achievements and free the region of malaria, a disease which, during the last century, was the leading cause of death in almost every nation in the world.
“Malaria elimination is now closer than ever,” said PAHO director, Dominican-born Dr Carissa F Etienne, who warned however “we cannot rely or relax on the actions already taken.
“Efforts must be stepped-up, where incidences of the disease have increased,” she added. PAHO said that Paraguay was certified as having eliminated malaria from its territory in June of this year; Argentina is on track to obtain its certification in 2019; and Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico and Suriname are “potentially on their way to achieving elimination by 2020.
“Other countries, however, have recorded an increase in the number of cases of malaria, which puts at risk achievement of the goals to reduce the number of cases, and eliminate the disease in the region by 2030,” PAHO said.
Since 2015, PAHO said cases of malaria in the Americas, including the Caribbean, have increased by 71 per cent.
It said 95 per cent of the total number of these cases are concentrated in five countries, mainly in specific areas, where efforts against the disease have been weakened.
PAHO said many of those affected are indigenous populations, people living in situations of vulnerability and mobile populations, such as miners and migrants.
“If we want to eliminate malaria, we need to improve investment and expand access to prevention, diagnosis and timely treatment of the disease in communities where the most cases are concentrated,” said Marcos Espinal, director of the Department of Communicable Diseases and Environmental Determinants of Health at PAHO.
PAHO said many countries in the region are expanding their efforts to control and eliminate malaria, with its support, as well as the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other partners.
In 2013, PAHO said the “Elimination of Malaria in Mesoamerica and the Island of Hispaniola” initiative was launched with the aim of eliminating malaria in nine countries by 2020.
Since then, the Zero Malaria Alliance, launched in 2015, has joined the efforts to achieve this aim of eliminating the disease in two of these countries, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, PAHO said.
This year, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), along with other collaborators and PAHO, as the main technical partner, launched another initiative to accelerate efforts to eliminate malaria in Mesoamerica.