It was in Algeria where malaria was first discovered in 1980. But now the country is free from the disease, as declared by the World Health Organization. Algeria is now the third country in Africa to be declared free from malaria, following Mauritius and Morocco.
There have been massive worldwide programs to eradicate the disease. The fact that Algeria is now free from the disease speaks volumes as regards the example it is setting other African countries that are heavily plagued by malaria. For the past 3 years, no new case of malaria has been reported. Algeria also joins Argentina in being declared malaria-free.
The mosquito-borne diseases kills around 435,000 people every year. Eliminating it totally from the face of the earth is an extremely herculean task given the myriad of complex problems that make this very hard. In 2017, the number of reported cases of malaria actually increased by 3 million to a total of 219 million people.
Against this backdrop, what Algeria has done is really remarkable. "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 Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
He added, "Their success serves as a model for other countries working to end this disease once and for all."
"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," said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa.
One may be inquisitive as to how Algeria has reached this status. An effective combination of "free malaria diagnosis and treatment and a well-trained health work force" worked to confining malaria to zero cases. The country used some known methods such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets, surveillance measures designed to identify new cases of malaria quickly, and universal malaria diagnosis and treatment (free). With a well-trained health workforce, these methods are applied with a greater degree of effectiveness. A conflation of these methods is coupled with a good rate of success. Surveillance techniques have greatly enabled the quick detection of new cases. It would be prudent if this method could be applied for other African countries as well.
Malaria was problematic in Algeria in the 1960s. By then, there was a rate of 80,000 new cases a year. At the time around 2000, this figure had dropped to 20,000 new cases a year. And now, the figure is zero. In Sub-Saharan Africa, malaria is very fierce. Some countries with many cases of malaria such as Nigeria, DRC, Mozambique and Uganda are relapsing.
For Algeria, eliminating the diseases means they now have room to focus on other issues. They can now free up resources to focus on other health and developmental issues.
Header image credit - Journal du Cameroun