Feb 25, 2021 - World

WHO says El Salvador has eliminated malaria

A truck spraying mosquito repellent in San Salvador in August 2020.
A truck spraying mosquito repellent in San Salvador in August 2020. Photo: Camilo Freedman/APHOTOGRAFIA/Getty Images

El Salvador on Thursday became the first country in Central America to be certified malaria-free by the World Health Organization.

Why it matters: It's the 38th country to eliminate the parasitic disease that has plagued humanity for ages.

What they're saying: “Malaria has afflicted humankind for millennia, but countries like El Salvador are living proof and inspiration for all countries that we can dare to dream of a malaria-free future,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

  • “The people and the government of El Salvador, together with its health workers, have fought for decades against malaria," Dr. Francisco José Alabi Montoya, the country's health minister, said.

The big picture: The WHO grants a country a certification of malaria elimination when it has proven, beyond reasonable doubt, that the chain of indigenous
mosquito transmission has been interrupted nationwide for at least the previous three consecutive years.

  • Between 1990 and 2010, the number of malaria cases in El Salvador declined from more than 9,000 to 26.
  • The country has reported no indigenous cases of the disease since 2017, according to the WHO.

Malaria still afflicts millions of people around the world every year.

  • The disease infected 228 million people and killed an estimated 405,000 in 2018, according to WHO records.
  • The WHO warned in 2020 that the coronavirus pandemic may exacerbate malaria deaths in some parts of the world.
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