Although the total number of malaria cases in the Region spiked from 2015 to 2019, increased efforts towards elimination in the 18 endemic countries have yielded positive results, with 520,000 cases reported in 2021 – a 13% reduction from the previous year.
The number of deaths also declined from 197 in 2019, to 120 deaths in 2021 thanks to improved case management in countries with the highest disease burdens. Early diagnosis and treatment remain key to preventing mortality and reducing transmission.
In 2018, Paraguay was certified malaria-free, followed by Argentina in 2019 and El Salvador in 2021. Belize is also on track to receive certification, after remaining malaria-free for the past three years.
“We have the tools needed to provide populations with highly effective diagnosis, treatment, and prevention interventions, but we need to step up our efforts and tailor responses to specific settings,” the Director stated in a video message to commemorate the day.
To ensure this, countries must “engage local communities, strengthen primary health care, and ensure sustainable funding to maintain progress towards elimination,” he added.
Malaria is an acute disease caused by Plasmodium, a parasite transmitted by the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. Symptoms, including fever, headache and chills appear 10-15 days after a bite and may be mild or, left untreated, can progress to severe illness and death.
Insufficient availability of malaria services in remote endemic areas continues to affect the response to the disease. The theme of World Malaria Day 2023, Time to deliver zero malaria: invest, innovate, implement, highlights the critical importance of sustained interventions tailored to reach these vulnerable communities.
“Eliminating malaria is possible,” Dr. Barbosa added. “It is time to urge mobilization of resources and support towards malaria elimination in the Americas.”