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WHO touts bids to eradicate malaria in 25 countries by 2025

April 22, 2021

Ahead of World Malaria Day on April 25, the WHO launched an initiative aiming to help 25 countries stamp out malaria in five years. The agency had supported 21 countries to bring their malaria caseloads to zero by 2020.

A child being vaccinated against malaria. (Photo by Brian ONGORO / AFP)
Image: Brian ONGORO/AFP

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a plan to halt the transmission of malaria in 25 more countries by 2025, ahead of World Malaria Day on April 25.

Through an initiative launched in 2017, the WHO said it had supported 21 countries in their efforts to bring their malaria caseloads to zero by 2020.

Malaria sniffer dog Sally

The UN health agency said it had now identified 25 countries, some from the previous group and some new ones, with potential to stamp out malaria within five years. "These countries will receive specialized support and technical guidance as they work towards the target of zero malaria," said the WHO in a statement.

Eight countries, including China, Iran and Paraguay, succeeded in reporting zero indigenous human cases by 2020. The new group of countries aiming to to do so by 2025 includes Thailand, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

Ongoing efforts against malaria

Forty-six of the 87 countries with malaria reported fewer than 10,000 cases of the disease in 2019, compared to 26 countries in 2000. By the end of 2020, 24 countries had reported interrupting malaria transmission for 3 years or more. Of these, 11 were certified malaria-free by WHO.

"Many of the countries we are recognizing today carried, at one time, a very high burden of malaria. Their successes were hard-won and came only after decades of concerted action" said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

A majority of malaria deaths occur in Africa, especially among children. While the situation is different in each country, the WHO said that those nations who have managed to control malaria have a robust primary health care system, and systems that help ensure broad access to prevention, diagnosis and treatment services.

The pandemic caused several disruptions into efforts to control malaria worldwide. Lockdowns, restrictions and problems with access to healthcare have impacted the fight against malaria. The WHO has urged people in malaria-affected regions to "beat the fear" and access healthcare facilities with necessary COVID protocols. 

Editor's note: The headline of this story has been changed to reflect that the WHO is supporting domestic bids to eradicate malaria, not leading the push. The story has also been altered to reflect that Paraguay and China have already either been certified as malaria-free (Paraguay) or have requested that certification (China) in recent years. Previously they were incorrectly cited as countries aiming to eradicate malaria by 2025.

tg/rc (AFP, Reuters)