CABO VERDE — Cabo Verde, an archipelago of 10 islands in the Central Atlantic Ocean, has been certified as a malaria-free country by the World Health Organization (WHO), marking a landmark achievement in world health.
This certification is provided when a country can demonstrate, through rigorous and reliable statistics, that the chain of indigenous malaria transmission by Anopheles mosquitoes has been interrupted countrywide for at least three years.
Cabo Verde is the third country in the WHO African region to be certified for malaria eradication, joining Mauritius and Algeria, which were certified in 1973 and 2019, respectively.
Cabo Verde now joins the 43 countries and one territory that have earned this WHO certification. The African continent has the highest malaria burden, accounting for approximately 95% of worldwide malaria infections and 96% of related fatalities in 2021.
Malaria eradication certification will propel Cabo Verde forward on many fronts, since the methods and structures built for malaria elimination will enhance the health system and be used to tackle other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever.
Travellers from non-malaria-endemic areas can now visit the Cabo Verde Islands without fear of local malaria illnesses or the inconvenience of preventive treatment measures.
This has the potential to increase tourist numbers and promote socioeconomic activities in a country where tourism contributes approximately 25 percent of GDP.
During the certification ceremony, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised Cabo Verde’s government and people for their persistent commitment and perseverance in their mission to eradicate malaria.
He went on to say that the WHO’s certification demonstrates the power of strategic public health planning, collaboration, and a long-term commitment to health protection and promotion.
According to Dr. Ghebreyesus, Cabo Verde’s victory is the latest in the worldwide fight against malaria, and it offers us hope that with existing strategies as well as new ones, such as vaccinations, the world might dare to dream of a malaria-free future.
Cabo Verde’s Prime Minister, Ulisses Correia e Silva, stressed that this certification has a significant influence since it has taken a long time to obtain and would help the country’s external image, both for tourists and for everyone else.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, concluded by saying that this achievement is a beacon of hope for the African region and beyond because it demonstrates a strong political will, effective policies, community engagement, and multisectoral collaboration in achieving malaria elimination.
Cabo Verde’s journey to malaria eradication has been long, but it gained a boost in 2007 when this goal was included in the country’s national health strategy.
Prior to the 1950s, all islands were plagued by malaria, with catastrophic epidemics happening on a regular basis in the most densely populated areas until focused interventions were adopted.
Malaria was eradicated twice in the country, in 1967 and 1983, thanks to targeted insecticide spraying, but later gaps in vector control led to the disease’s resurgence.
Malaria in Cabo Verde has been confined to two islands since the late 1980s: Santiago and Boa Vista, both of which have been malaria-free since 2017.
From 2009 to 2013, a strategic malaria plan created the framework for success, focusing on enhanced diagnosis, early and effective treatment, and reporting and investigating all cases.
To curb the stream of imported cases from continental Africa, international travelers and migrants were given free diagnosis and treatment.
In 2017, the government transformed an outbreak into an opportunity by identifying flaws and making adjustments, resulting in zero indigenous cases for three years in a row.
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the country maintained progress by focusing on improving the quality and sustainability of vector control and malaria diagnosis, as well as strengthening malaria surveillance, particularly at ports, airports, the capital city, and areas at risk of malaria re-establishment.
Collaboration between the Ministry of Health and numerous government ministries focused on the environment, agriculture, transportation, tourism, and other areas was critical to Cabo Verde’s success.
The joint effort and dedication of community-based organizations and NGOs illustrate the necessity of a comprehensive approach to public health.
As Cabo Verde celebrates this historic success, the world community applauds its leaders, healthcare professionals, and citizens for their commitment to eliminating malaria and establishing a healthy future for all.