The World Health Organization (WHO) declared China malaria-free on Wednesday, after a 70-year campaign to eliminate the mosquito-borne illness.
In the 1940s, the nation recorded 30 million cases of infectious illness each year, but now it has gone four years without an indigenous case.
“We congratulate the people of China on ridding the country of malaria,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“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.”
Countries that have had zero indigenous cases for at least three years may seek WHO certification of their malaria-free status. They must provide solid proof and show that they have the ability to prevent transmission from re-emerging.
The World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva has recognized China as the 40th country to be malaria-free.
El Salvador (2021), Algeria and Argentina (2019), and Paraguay and Uzbekistan were the most recent nations to be granted the status (2018).
The second list of 61 nations where malaria never existed or was eradicated without special efforts is available.
In more than three decades, China has become the first nation in the WHO’s Western Pacific area to be declared malaria-free.
Australia (1981), Singapore (1982), and Brunei (1983) are the only other countries having approved status (1987).
Global progress against malaria is plateauing, according to the WHO’s World Malaria Report 2020, with African nations bearing the burden of cases and fatalities.
According to the yearly study, after gradually declining from 736,000 in 2000, the illness killed an expected 411,000 deaths in 2018 and 409,000 lives in 2019.
Meanwhile, the worldwide count of malaria cases was projected to reach 229 million in 2019, the same number as the previous four years.
Malaria kills over 90% of people in Africa, the majority of them are children under the age of five (more than 265,000).
According to the WHO, Beijing began determining where malaria was growing in the 1950s and began combating it with preventive anti-malarial medications.
The government has decreased mosquito breeding sites and increased pesticide spraying in households.
Artemisinin, the main component of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), which are the most powerful antimalarial medicines available, was discovered in the 1970s after China began a research effort to develop new malaria remedies in 1967.
China was one of the first nations to evaluate the use of insecticide-treated nets to combat malaria in the 1980s. More than 2.4 million had been dispersed throughout the country by 1988.
The number of malaria cases in China had dropped to 117,000 by the end of 1990, while fatalities had dropped by 95%.
“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,” said Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO´s global malaria programme.
Since 2003, China has increased its efforts across the board, reducing yearly case counts to approximately 5,000 in less than ten years.
China sought WHO certification in 2020 after four years of zero indigenous cases.
Experts visited China in May of this year to confirm the country’s malaria-free status as well as its measures to prevent the illness from returning.
The danger of imported cases persists, not just among individuals returning from sub-Saharan Africa and other malaria-affected areas, but also in the southern Yunnan Province, which shares borders with Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam, all of which are grappling with the illness.
According to the WHO, China has increased malaria monitoring in high-risk areas to prevent the illness from resurfacing.