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A researcher looks at Artemisia annua seedlings cultivated in nutrient solution in the National Germplasm Resource Bank of Artemisia annua in China. Photo: Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared that China has eradicated malaria after more than 70 years of fighting the disease.

Why it matters: China is the first country in the WHO Western Pacific Region to receive a malaria-free certification in more than 30 years. It follows Australia (1981), Singapore (1982) and Brunei (1987).

  • A total of 40 countries and territories have been declared free of the disease.

What they're saying: "Today we congratulate the people of China on ridding the country of malaria," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.

  • "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," he added.

History: China has been working to locate and stop the spread of the disease for decades. In the 1940s, the country reported approximately 30 million cases annually, according to the WHO.

  • The Chinese government launched the "523 Project" in 1967 to find new malaria treatments. Through this process, Chinese scientists found artemisinin, the key component of the most effective antimalarial drug to date.
  • By 1990, Chinese malaria cases decreased to 117,000, and deaths were reduced by 95%.
  • China applied for a WHO certification of malaria elimination in 2020, after four consecutive years of reporting zero cases.

Between the lines: WHO warned that malaria could still return, noting that China's Yunnan province borders several malaria-endemic countries: Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Go deeper

Oct 6, 2021 - Health

WHO backs first malaria vaccine for at-risk children

A Doctors Without Borders (MSF) health worker tends to a mother and her child at a mobile clinic. Photo: Saidu Bah/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Wednesday recommended the first vaccine against malaria for widespread use inoculating children in sub-Saharan Africa and other at-risk regions.

Why it matters: Malaria kills more than 400,000 people per year, more than half of them children under 5. The introduction of the first vaccine could reinvigorate the fight against the disease, which has stagnated in recent years, per the press release.

Oct 7, 2021 - Podcasts

New plans to help unhoused people in the nation’s capital

Washington D.C. is piloting a first-of-its-kind program that offers one-year leases to unhoused residents in the city. It could offer a solution for the more than half a million people experiencing homelessness in this community.

  • Plus, how South Dakota became a tax haven.
  • And, a game-changing new malaria vaccine.

Guests: Axios' Chelsea Cirruzzo, Felix Salmon and Bryan Walsh.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Lydia McMullen-Laird, David Toledo, Michael Hanf, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:

Biden and China's Xi agree to hold virtual summit before end of year

Then-Vice President Biden meets with Chinese President Xi in Davos in January 2017. Photo: Xinhua/Lan Hongguang via Getty Images

President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping have reached an agreement "in principle" to hold a virtual meeting before the end of the year, according to a senior administration official.

Driving the news: The White House announcement followed a six-hour meeting today in Zurich between White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.