China was officially certified ‘malaria-free’ by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday, becoming the second country in the Asia Pacific region to get the tag, after Sri Lanka in 2016.
The Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA), Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN) and their partner The RBM Partnership welcomed China’s achievement and noted the country’s contributions in the fight against malaria.
“China has had a long history of malaria. This milestone is a significant life-saving achievement for our country and a testament of the critical role and need for strong healthcare infrastructure, tailored innovations and leadership to end malaria,” said Prof Zhou Xiaonong, Director of National Institute of Parasitic Diseases (NIPD) at China CDC, in an official statement.
China has now maintained zero indigenous malaria cases for four consecutive years, down from an estimated 30 million cases and 300,000 deaths per year in the 1940s.
Over 10 years ago, the national malaria programme implemented the strategy “tracking infectious sources through surveillance, and response to clear the epidemics” with the 1-3-7 norm. The norm sets out clear timelines for diagnosis (one day), confirmation and risk assessment (three days) and action to contain all malaria cases (seven days) to prevent further transmission.
The approach has since been adopted and tailored to local settings by several countries in the region.
“Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease; we have the tools to stop its spread and must do so as a region and together. China has proved elimination is possible even in the most populous nation. Honouring this milestone is particularly important as progress on malaria has been uneven globally and in the region,” Dr Sarthak Das, CEO of APLMA, said.
Over the past 10 years, countries in the Asia Pacific region have almost halved the number of malaria deaths and cases and have made significant gains towards eliminating the disease by 2030. However, over two-and-a-half billion people are still at risk, and in some areas, malaria cases continue to rise.