THE World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that Algeria is now free of malaria.
Algeria is the second African country to be officially recognised as malaria-free, following Mauritius which was certified in 1973.
Alongside Algeria, Argentina was also declared malaria-free according to a statement obtained from the WHO’s website on Wednesday.
This means that there has not been a single case of anyone catching the disease in either country over the past three years.
“Algeria and Argentina have eliminated malaria thanks to the unwavering commitment and perseverance of the people and leaders of both countries,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom, WHO Director-General, said.
“Their success serves as a model for other countries working to end this disease once and for all.”
According to the WHO, Malaria was first discovered in Algeria by a French medical doctor, Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran, in 1880, and by the 1960s, the disease had become Algeria’s primary health challenge, with an estimated 80,000 cases each year.
“Algeria’s subsequent success in beating the disease can be attributed primarily to a well-trained health workforce, the provision of malaria diagnosis and treatment through universal health care, and a rapid response to disease outbreaks. Together, these factors enabled the country to reach – and maintain – zero malaria cases,” the WHO statement read.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, expressed delight at the development, describing it as a significant milestone in the battle against Malaria.
“Algeria is where the malaria parasite was first discovered in humans almost a century and a half ago, and that was a significant milestone in responding to the disease,” Moeti said.
“Now Algeria has shown the rest of Africa that malaria can be beaten through country leadership, bold action, sound investment and science. The rest of the continent can learn from this experience.”
WHO grants a certification of malaria elimination when a country has proven, beyond reasonable doubt, that the chain of indigenous transmission has been interrupted nationwide for at least the previous three consecutive years.
In addition, a national surveillance system capable of rapidly detecting and responding to any malaria cases must be operational, together with an effective programme to prevent re-establishment of the disease.
There are a total of 38 countries that malaria has been eradicated or never existed. In Africa, they include Mauritius and Algeria, as well as Lesotho and Seychelles where the disease “never existed or disappeared without specific measures”.
In Nigeria, Malaria remains endemic and accounts for a significant number of the total deaths in the country annually.