SWITZERLAND – China finally joins the list of malaria free states after the World Health Organisation (WHO) approves is application to be awarded the notable feat of malaria free state.
The country strived for almost 70 years to achieve this feat and will become the first state in West Pacific region to be awarded the malaria -free certification after thirty years since the last nation in that region was awarded.
Australia, Singapore, and Brunei Darussalam all got their certification in 1981, 1982 and 1987 respectively and were among the 40 states globally with a malaria free certification.
Other states that gained this feat recently were El Salvador (2021), Algeria (2019), Paraguay (2018) and Uzbekistan (2018).
“Today we congratulate the people of China on ridding the country of malaria,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Their success was hard-earned and came only after decades of targeted and sustained action. With this announcement, China joins the growing number of countries that are showing the world that a malaria-free future is a viable goal.”
China actively began engaging in the campaign program to eliminate malaria back in the 1950s with health authorities working to locate and stop the spread of disease through provision of preventive antimalarial medications to people under high risk as well as those who had fallen ill.
In 1967, the Chinese Government launched the “523 Project”, a nation-wide research programme aimed at finding new treatments for malaria.
This effort, involving more than 500 scientists from 60 institutions, led to the discovery in the 1970s of artemisinin – the core compound of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), the most effective antimalarial drugs available today.
By the 1980s, China was among the first countries globally to introduce and test the use of insecticide -treated nets (INT) to help prevent malaria prior to having it approved by WHO.
These efforts saw malaria cases in the state plummet to 117000 with 95% reduced cases of deaths, this even prompted the state to further step up its efforts through staffing, training, adding lab equipment and medicines under the support of Global fund.
Fast forward to 2020, the state had at that time achieved 4 consecutive years without any cases of malaria leading to their application for an official WHO certification of malaria elimination, which they finally got following a panel review in May 2021.
Despite 40 states achieving the malaria free status, this disease is still at large and according to WHO, more than 700,000 people die annually due to vector-borne diseases (VBDs) specifically malaria.
Taken together, these VDBs exact an immense toll on economies and can impede both rural and urban development.
Recognizing the urgent need for new tools to combat VBDs, and in the spirit of fostering innovation, WHO supports the investigation of all potentially beneficial technologies, including genetically modified mosquitoes (GMMs).
In recent years, there have been significant advances in GMM approaches aimed at suppressing mosquito populations and reducing their susceptibility to infection, as well as their ability to transmit disease-carrying pathogens.
According to the WHO statement, computer simulation modelling has shown that GMMs could be a valuable new tool in efforts to eliminate malaria and to control diseases carried by Aedes mosquitoes.
Further evaluation and review are still underway as the WHO is striving to eliminate Malaria globally, other innovations are also springing up in relation to malaria and just recently, an Israeli based startup ZzappMalaria worn some price money from IBM Watson.
The startup developed an AI-powered mobile app and dashboard to tackle malaria on the eradication level, specifically in developing countries.
The WHO is hopeful to one day achieve a malaria free world through its policies and mitigative measures that empower ideas based around malaria eradication.