By Jedida Barasa

With no reported cases of local malaria transmission for three years-as of January 2021- Cabo Verde is eligible to apply for the World Health Organization certification of malaria elimination.

Certification of malaria elimination is the official recognition by WHO of a country’s malaria free status. A country is granted the certification when it proves that the chain of all human malaria parasites has been interrupted nationwide for at least three consecutive years and that a fully functional surveillance and response system that can prevent re-establishment of transmission is in place.

If approved, Cabo Verde will have been validated thrice for its malaria elimination. The first time was in 1968 while the second in 1983. However, the resurgence of the disease was accredited to the subsequent lapses in vector control that led to a return of the disease.

By 2015, the country had reduced indigenous transmission to only seven cases. However, imported cases led to an outbreak at the end of 2017, when the country recorded 423 indigenous infections in the capital Praia.

“The current achievement is attributed to a robust vector control, a rapid case detection and prompt treatment which helped to significantly reduce cases in areas of transmission. The implementation of preventive strategies also helped to eliminate malaria as a health threat in the country. This strategy has resulted in high rates of adherence to antimalarial medication, low mortality rates and, ultimately, zero indigenous cases of the disease,” said Dr Hernando Agudelo, WHO Representative in Cabo Verde in a statement.

The country’s eligibility for the E-2020 initiative – a WHO initiative launched in 2016 to eliminate malaria in 21 countries by 2020, strengthened the engagement of government, civil society and partners in mobilizing resources to consolidate the elimination of malaria.

A five-year national strategic plan implemented in 2009 ensured that treatment and diagnosis would be provided free of charge to international travelers and migrants, an effort to stem the tide of imported cases from mainland Africa.

Most of the malaria cases are detected passively at the health facilities. Those confirmed are reported within 24 hours, hospitalized and treated. Aftercare includes monitoring once a week for 28 days for the discharged patients.

Two annual indoor residual spraying campaigns, regular vector larvae control, malaria control at entry points (airports and ports) and environmental sanitations are the main preventive measures along with the allocation of additional human and financial resources to the elimination programme.