Paraguay was certified as having eliminated malaria from its territory in June of this year and several others–Argentina, Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico and Suriname are potentially on their way to achieving elimination by 2020.

Western hemisphere map Public domain image/ E Pluribus Anthony
Western hemisphere map
Public domain image/ E Pluribus Anthony

Other countries, especially Venezuela, 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.

Venezuela malaria situation grows worse: 650K cases so far in 2018

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) urges countries of the region to take urgent action to halt the increase in cases, maintain achievements, and free the continent 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, Carissa F. Etienne. However, she also warned that “we cannot rely or relax on the actions already taken. Efforts must be stepped-up where incidences of the disease have increased,” she added.

Since 2015, cases of malaria in the Americas have increased by 71%. 95% of the total number of these cases are concentrated in five countries, mainly in specific areas where efforts against the disease have been weakened. 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.

Many countries in the Region are expanding their efforts to control and eliminate malaria with the support of PAHO, USAID and other partners. In 2013, the “Elimination of Malaria in Mesoamerica and the Island of Hispaniola” initiative was launched with the aim of eliminating malaria in 9 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. 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.