The World Health Organization (WHO) is launching a new initiative which aims to halt transmission of malaria in 25 more countries by 2025.
The initiative is to be launched on World Malaria Day on April 25. Thailand, South Africa and Saudi Arabia are among the countries the WHO aims to make malaria-free.
The 25 countries will receive specialized support and technical guidance to help eradicate the disease.
Countries in South-East Asia’s Greater Mekong region have already made great strides: the number of cases in the region comprised of Cambodia, China (Yunnan Province), Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam fell by 97 per cent between 2000 and 2020, the WHO said in a statement.
But the coronavirus crisis has emerged as a serious challenge to malaria responses worldwide. “More than one year into the pandemic, substantial disruptions to health services persist across the globe,” the WHO said.
In many countries, lockdowns and restrictions on the movement of people and goods led to delays in the delivery of insecticide-treated mosquito nets or indoor insecticide spraying campaigns. Malaria diagnosis and treatment services were also interrupted.
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. It is preventable and curable.
Globally, 39 countries and territories have been recognized as malaria-free by the WHO. Eleven countries have been certified malaria-free in the last 20 years.
In 2019, there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria worldwide. The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 409,000 in 2019, according to the World Health Organization.