Following a 70-year effort, China has been awarded a malaria-free certification from WHO.
This is a notable feat for a country that reported 30 million cases of the disease annually in the 1940s, the WHO states in a press release.
“Today we congratulate the people of China on ridding the country of malaria,” says 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.”
One step closer towards the vision of a malaria-free Western Pacific Region
China is the first country in the WHO Western Pacific Region to be awarded a malaria-free certification in more than 3 decades. Other countries in the region that have achieved this status include Australia (1981), Singapore (1982) and Brunei Darussalam (1987).
“Congratulations to China on eliminating malaria,” says Dr Takeshi Kasai, Regional Director, WHO Western Pacific Regional Office. “China’s tireless effort to achieve this important milestone demonstrates how strong political commitment and strengthening national health systems can result in eliminating a disease that once was a major public health problem. China’s achievement takes us one step closer towards the vision of a malaria-free Western Pacific Region.”
Globally, 40 countries and territories have been granted a malaria-free certification from WHO – including, most recently, El Salvador (2021), Algeria (2019), Argentina (2019), Paraguay (2018) and Uzbekistan (2018).
Keys to success according to the WHO
China provides a basic public health service package for its residents free of charge. As part of this package, all people in China have access to affordable services for the diagnosis and treatment of malaria, regardless of legal or financial status.
Effective multi-sector collaboration was also key to success. In 2010, 13 ministries in China – including those representing health, education, finance, research and science, development, public security, the army, police, commerce, industry, information technology, media and tourism – joined forces to end malaria nationwide.
In recent years, the country further reduced its malaria caseload through a strict adherence to the timelines of the “1-3-7” strategy. The “1” signifies the one-day deadline for health facilities to report a malaria diagnosis; by the end of day 3, health authorities are required to confirm a case and determine the risk of spread; and, within 7 days, appropriate measures must be taken to prevent further spread of the disease.
Prevent re-establishment of the disease
The risk of imported cases of malaria remains a key concern, particularly in southern Yunnan Province, which borders 3 malaria-endemic countries: Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Viet Nam. China also faces the challenge of imported cases among Chinese nationals returning from sub-Saharan Africa and other malaria-endemic regions.
To prevent re-establishment of the disease, the country has stepped up its malaria surveillance in at-risk zones and has engaged actively in regional malaria control initiatives, describes WHO in a press release. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, China has maintained trainings for health providers through an online platform and held virtual meetings for the exchange of information on malaria case investigations, among other topics.