Costa Rica, El Salvador and Suriname are the three winners of the Malaria Champions award, a prize presented  by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), that recognizes the efforts of the Americas toward eliminating the disease.

El Salvador map
Central America map/CIA

Advances in these countries, “assert further our belief that we can effectively eliminate malaria in several areas (in the region) in the coming years,” said Francisco Becerra, assistant director of PAHO, the regional office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Fifteen years ago, malaria afflicted about 2,000 people in Costa Rica. The country’s control efforts paid off and since 2013 the country has reported no autochthonous cases of the disease.

This success was achieved through the implementation of its National Plan to Eliminate Malaria, which includes supervised treatment and home visits by Basic Comprehensive Care Teams (EBAIS), who on horseback, motorcycle, boat or on foot, visit the communities. Its network of 126 laboratories and integration of malaria in the health care network swiftly detect and prevent disease outbreaks.

While Costa Rica achieved a reduction of 100 percent, fellow Central America recipient El Salvador has achieved a reduction of 98.9% in cases since 2000, and has reported no deaths since 1998. In 2014, the country recorded only eight confirmed cases of malaria, two of which were imported. The figure was the lowest in the country’s history.

In Suriname, malaria has been virtually eliminated in the inland villages which previously had the highest rates of transmission of the Americas, and have been reduced to less than 90 indigenous cases each year. In 2014 and 2015, the country recorded no deaths from the disease.

At the regional level, between 2000 and 2014, an expansion of malaria interventions helped reduce cases by 67% (from almost 1.2 million in 2000 to 375,000 in 2014) and malaria-related deaths by 79% ( from 390 in 2000 to 89 in 2014). These figures are well above the world average of 37% case reduction and 60% reduction in deaths.