WHO: China Free of Malaria
The World Health Organization declared China free of malaria on Wednesday, hailing its “notable feat” of driving annual cases down from 30 million to zero in 70 years.
The WHO said China had become the first country in the Western Pacific region to eliminate the mosquito-borne disease in over three decades, after Australia, Singapore and Brunei.
“Their success was hard-earned and came only after decades of targeted and sustained action,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said in a statement released on Wednesday. “With this announcement, China joins the growing number of countries that are showing the world that a malaria-free future is a viable goal.”
Malaria is a disease transmitted by mosquito bites or blood infusion. In 2019, about 229 million cases were reported worldwide, causing 409,000 deaths, according to a WHO report.
In China, it was estimated that 30 million people suffered from the scourge annually in the 1940s, with a death rate of 1 percent. At that time, about 80 percent of districts and counties across the country grappled with endemic malaria, the National Health Commission said.
In analyzing keys to the country’s success, the WHO pinpointed three factors: the rollout of basic health insurance plans that ensure the affordability of malaria diagnosis and treatment for all; multisector collaboration; and implementation of an innovative disease control strategy that has strengthened surveillance and containment.
China reported no domestic malaria infections for the first time in 2017, and has recorded no local cases since.
In November, China filed an application for malaria-free certification to the WHO. In May, experts convened by the WHO conducted evaluations in Hubei, Anhui, Yunnan and Hainan provinces.
The certification is granted to a country when it registers no local infections for at least three consecutive years and demonstrates the capacity to prevent possible transmission in the future. Forty countries and territories have been issued with the certificate so far, according to the WHO.