SEATTLE, Washington — After years of battling malaria and the many deaths it has caused, both Argentina and Algeria were declared malaria-free by the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2019. In order to achieve the certification of being free of a certain disease, WHO requires that there have not been any new indigenous cases, cases that have originated in the country rather than having been carried over, for three years. Argentina and Algeria finally succeed in the eradication of malaria.
Global Cases of Malaria
In 2017, there were 219 million documented cases of malaria globally, resulting in 435,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC). Despite the increase in reported cases, there has still been a lot of progress in the eradication of malaria in the last 15 years. A 2017 World Bank report states that, between 2000 and 2015, there was a 41 percent decrease in malaria cases and a 62 percent decrease in the number of deaths due to malaria.
Malaria has long burdened the continent of Africa, affecting it disproportionately to the rest of the world. WHO African Region reported that 88 percent of malaria cases in 2015 occurred in Africa. The CDC reported that the transmission of the disease is common in Africa due to the concentrated presence of one of the mosquitos responsible for transmission along with a combination of weather and the inability for some countries to provide effective control systems.
The Eradication of Malaria in Argentina
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) stated that one of the best defenses against transmitting malaria is early detection through screening and the immediate start of treatment. These are the same steps that Argentina began taking to eradicate the disease. Health workers were taught how to spray homes with insecticides to prevent the spread of the disease through mosquitos. Faster diagnosis has become possible through microscopy. Furthermore, the country’s rapid response to cases kept the numbers from spreading.
Argentina has been free of any indigenous cases of malaria since 2010. The country began making the effort to fully eradicate malaria in the late 20th century after the Global Malaria Eradication Program ended. Argentina also partnered with its neighbor, Bolivia, to ensure that the disease was not being spread across the border. The two countries worked together to spray around 22,000 homes with insecticides.
In addition to these changes, Argentina has worked to integrate the malaria elimination program into the nation’s healthcare system to keep an eye on possible occurrences of the disease, WHO reported. In some areas, Argentinian health workers make home visits to provide medical advice and follow up on suspected cases of malaria.
Algeria’s Solution to Malaria
The eradication of malaria might hold more meaning in Algeria since it is the country where the parasite responsible for the disease was initially discovered in the 19th century. Africa news reported that Algeria has been malaria-free since 2013, making it the third African country to accomplish this, following Mauritius and Morocco.
The elimination of malaria in Algeria can be mostly attributed to the country’s nearly free national healthcare, according to WHO. The U.S. Library of Congress reported that, as of 1975, all Algerians could obtain medication, hospitalization and outpatient care at no cost. This free medical access allows health workers to spot malaria early on to prevent it from spreading.
Despite Algeria’s ability to prevent new cases from sprouting up within the country, the high volume of malaria occurrences in Africa is a result of the more than 1,000 imported cases since 2013. WHO stated that these imported cases are not a threat to the country’s eradication status because the healthcare system is advanced enough to spot and treat any threats before they can be transmitted within the country.
The eradication of malaria in Argentina and Algeria provides the perfect example of what can happen when countries put in the financial means and the efforts that are necessary to enact change. Because of these modifications to the healthcare systems, thousands of lives will be saved and the people of Argentina and Algeria can take some comfort in knowing that their governments are prioritizing their health and safety.
– Makenna Hall