Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by Plasmodium parasites. In 2017 an estimated 219 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide and 435,000 people died, mostly children in the African Region.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced this week that Algeria and Argentina have achieved certification of malaria-free status, meaning both have interrupted local transmission for at least 3 consecutive years.

Algeria, where the disease was first discovered in humans in 1880 by the French physician Dr. Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran, is only the second country in its African region to reach malaria-free status. The first was Mauritius, which was certified in 1973. Algeria reported its last indigenous malaria cases in 2013.

“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,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa.

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Argentina is the second country in the Americas region to be certified in 45 years after Paraguay in 2018. Argentina reported its last local malaria cases in 2010. Malaria elimination was made a goal in Argentina in the 1970s. Elimination was achieved by training health workers to spray homes with insecticides, diagnosing the disease through microscopy, and effectively responding to cases in the community.

The WHO grants malaria-free certification when a country has proven that the chain indigenous transmission has been interrupted for at least the previous 3 consecutive years. Countries should also show evidence that the surveillance systems in place can rapidly detect and respond to any malaria cases and have effective programs to prevent resurgences and re-establishment.

In a WHO statement, Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the two countries eliminated malaria due to the unwavering commitment and perseverance of their people and leaders. “Their success serves as a model for other countries working to end this disease once and for all.”

In recent years, 9 countries have been certified by the WHO Director-General as having eliminated malaria: United Arab Emirates (2007), Morocco (2010), Turkmenistan (2010), Armenia (2011), Maldives (2015), Sri Lanka (2016), Kyrgyzstan (2016), Paraguay (2018) and Uzbekistan (2018).