It wasn’t too long ago that Sri Lanka was one of the most affected countries by malaria on the planet! Now, the island nation is completely free of the disease and was even certified by the World Health Organization (WHO) for accomplishing the monumental feat.
During the 1970s and 1980s, malaria cases soared in Sri Lanka, reports The New York Times. In result, the nation launched an anti-malaria campaign and adjusted its strategies to target the parasite transmitted by mosquitoes.
In addition to educating communities about health education and improving surveillance to help authorities respond to outbreaks more effectively, mobile malaria clinics were dispersed to high transmission areas. The clinics helped infected individuals receive prompt and effective treatment, thereby reducing the parasite reservoir and the possibility of further transmission.
In 2006, the country recorded less than 1,000 cases of malaria per year. And in October 2012, the number of new malaria cases dropped to zero. Over the past three and a half years, officials have been monitoring new outbreaks, and fortunately, have documented NO new cases. It has taken several decades to eliminate the parasite, but Sri Lanka has finally succeeded!
Said WHO Regional Director Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh:
“Sri Lanka’s achievement is truly remarkable. In the mid-20th century, it was among the most malaria-affected countries, but now it is malaria-free. This is testament to the courage and vision of its leaders, and signifies the great leaps that can be made when targeted action is taken. It also demonstrates the importance of grass-roots community engagement and a whole-of-society approach when it comes to making dramatic public health gains.”
To ensure that Sri Lanka remains malaria-free, the anti-malaria campaign will continue to work closely with the WHO and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In addition, local authorities and international partners will remain vigilant of new cases and respond as soon as possible to prevent the parasite from being reintroduced to the country.
Sri Lanka is the second South-East Asian country to eliminate malaria; Maldives was the first. Hopefully, it will be only a matter of time before other territories in the region eradicate the parasite, as well. Considering that malaria causes flu-like symptoms, including shaking chills, muscle aches, diarrhea, and vomiting, and sometimes – if left untreated – death, eradicating the parasite from every nation should be a top priority.
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