Sri Lanka,Aug 5, 2016: In a remarkable public health achievement, Sri Lanka has been certified as malaria-free island country by World Health Organisation (WHO).
“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, “WHO Regional Director, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said here.
Sri Lanka’s road to eliminating the mosquitoes was tough, and demanded well-calibrated, responsive policies. After malaria cases soared in the 1970s and 80s, the country’s anti-malaria campaign in the 1990s adjusted its strategy to intensively target the parasite in addition to targeting the mosquito. The change in strategy was unorthodox, but highly effective.
Mobile malaria clinics in high transmission areas meant that prompt and effective treatment could reduce the parasite reservoir and the possibility of further transmission. Effective surveillance, community engagement and health education, meanwhile, enhanced the ability of authorities to respond, and mobilised popular support for the campaign. The adaptation and flexibility of strategies and support from key partners such as WHO and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria fast-tracked success.
By 2006, the country recorded less than 1 000 cases of malaria per year, and since October 2012, the indigenous cases were down to zero. For the past three-and-a-half years, no locally transmitted cases have been recorded. To maintain elimination and ensure the parasite is not reintroduced to the country, the anti-malaria campaign is working closely with local authorities and international partners to maintain surveillance and response capacity and to screen high-risk populations entering the country.
Sri Lanka is the second country in the WHO South-East Asia Region to eliminate malaria after Maldives. The announcement of Sri Lanka’s victory over malaria was made at the WHO South-East Asia Region’s annual Regional Committee meeting in the presence of health ministers and senior health officials from all 11 Member States.
The Regional Director said WHO will continue to support the efforts of Sri Lanka’s health authorities as they relate to malaria, as well as the country’s wider public health mission. This outstanding achievement should be a springboard to further public health gains in the country and the South-East Asia Region as a whole. (IANS)
A panel of World Health Organization experts says strategies must be strengthened to combat the worsening Ebola epidemic in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The WHO’s latest report counted 1,738 cases of Ebola in Congo, including 1,218 deaths.
Congo’s minister of health, Oly Ilungo, likened the Ebola epidemic to a multi-headed dragon. Speaking through an interpreter, he said the epidemic began in one place, Mangina, but keeps popping up elsewhere.
“Our response, therefore, needs to continually adapt itself to the situation,” said Ilungo. “We need to continually adapt and change our strategy bearing in mind lessons learned.”
He said prevention measures, surveillance, the tracing of infected people, timely treatment and safe burial practices must be maintained. At the same time, he said old tools need to be refreshed and improved.
He proposed setting up a data-driven system, which compiles all the information produced in the response effort.
“Increasingly, it manages to carry out analyses that allow us to get ahead of the problem and we can identify the danger areas where there might be a greater risk of the virus spreading and we can get ahead of the problem,” he added.
The WHO regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, finds the increasing number of new Ebola cases extremely worrying and challenging. She warned the risk of the disease spreading beyond Congo’s borders is very high.
She said the DRC’s nine neighboring countries are aware of the dangers and, with the help of the WHO, have taken many steps to prepare for that possibility.
“We have 16 Ebola-treatment centers and units having been established across the nine countries,” she said. “And, in addition over 4,500 health workers have been trained to be able to detect and manage these cases.The countries have continued to engage with communities to raise their awareness in all high-risk areas.”
WHO officials are appealing for intensified international political engagement and financial support to combat Ebola. They warn the further spread of the dangerous disease would have serious social and economic regional implications and would trigger an even greater crisis. (VOA)