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WHO Declares China Malaria-Free After 70 Years Of Efforts

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L-R: WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Chinese president, Xi Jinping.
L-R: WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Chinese president, Xi Jinping.

World Health Organization (WHO) has on Wednesday officially granted China a malaria-free certification as a token of celebration of the country’s successful elimination of the disease after a 70 years effort to eradicate the disease.

From 30 million malaria cases in the 1940s, China brought down that number over the last decades, to finally achieve no cases in the last four years (2017), the WHO said.

WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated;

Today we congratulate the people of China on ridding the country of malaria. Their success was hard-earned and came only after decades of targeted and sustained action.

With this announcement, China joins the growing number of countries that are showing the world that a malaria-free future is a viable goal.

China’s efforts against malaria started in the 1950s, as the disease was rampant in the southern part of the country, close to other hotspots in mainland Southeast Asia.

The “523 Project” — a research program launched in 1967 — allowed Chinese Nobel Prize winner, Tu Youyou to discover artemisinin, one of the most effective antimalarial drugs nowadays, according to the WHO.

Over the last two decades, China ramped up its efforts and reduced the number of cases in the 1990s from 117,000 to 5,000 annually by providing staff training, laboratory equipment, antimalarial medicines and new methods to control mosquito propagation.

The “1-3-7” strategy — one day to report a case, three days to confirm a case and seven days to prevent further spread of the disease — was also a tool of success and is still used nowadays for travelers coming from malaria-infected countries.

China applied for WHO certification in 2020, after four consecutive years of zero indigenous cases. Experts traveled to the country in May this year to verify the malaria-free status, and 
preparedness to prevent future outbreaks. 

Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme, stated;

Over many decades, China’s ability to think outside the box served the country well in its own response to malaria, and also had a significant ripple effect globally.

To be declared free of mosquito-borne disease, countries can apply for WHO certification after three years of no indigenous cases. However, they must present rigorous evidence and demonstrate the capacity to prevent transmission re-emerging.

According to WHO, around 40 countries have won the fight against malaria. China is the first country in the western Pacific region to achieve this breakthrough in 30 years. Other countries to gain the status recently were El Salvador, Algeria, Argentina, Paraguay and Uzbekistan.

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