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Malaria eradication, Cape Verde obtains WHO certification

A malaria-free island

On Friday 12 January 2024, a new era began for Cape Verde, an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the country malaria-free. It thus becomes the third African country to obtain this certification after Mauritius and Algeria, certified in 1973 and 2019 respectively.

A major health victory

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This certification marks a significant health victory for the country. After several consecutive years of observation, Cape Verde has demonstrated that malaria has been eradicated on its territory because the chain of domestic transmission by mosquitoes has been interrupted on a national scale.

Certification of malaria elimination is an official recognition granted by the WHO to a country when it has been able to demonstrate – on the basis of rigorous and credible hard data – that the local chain of transmission of all malaria parasites by mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles has been completely interrupted throughout the country for at least three consecutive years. The country must also demonstrate that a fully operational surveillance and response system is in place to prevent the resumption of transmission.

The keys to success

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, stressed that Cape Verde’s success is a beacon of hope for the African Region and beyond: “The fact that Cape Verde has taken this important step is an inspiring example for other nations.

Several measures have been put in place to achieve this result. In 2007, Cape Verde included the goal of a malaria-free country in its national health policy. Through a strategic malaria control plan, efforts have focused on improving diagnosis, early and effective treatment, and systematic reporting of all cases. Malaria surveillance has been stepped up, particularly in ports and airports, in the capital and in high-risk areas. International travellers and migrants have been tested and treated free of charge to stem the flow of imported cases from continental Africa.

To this must be added the seamless collaboration between a number of players: the various government departments working in the fields of the environment, agriculture, transport, tourism, community organisations and NGOs, etc., and the Ministry of Health. This has played a central role in Cape Verde’s success. This collaborative work and the general mobilisation demonstrate the importance of a comprehensive approach to public health.

A malaria-free world is possible

Cape Verde, an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, is an island state in West Africa made up of ten volcanic islands. Located off the coasts of Senegal and Mauritania, it covers an area of around 4,000 km2, with a population of around 583,255 in 2020. It is the only island member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Cape Verde thus joins the 43 countries already certified by the WHO. Travellers can now visit the country without fear of being infected locally by the disease, and without the potential inconvenience of preventive treatment measures.

It is true that malaria continues to kill hundreds of thousands of people on the African continent every day. And much remains to be done. Yet today, Cape Verde can celebrate this monumental success.  Its leaders, health professionals and citizens are to be congratulated on their investment in better health for all. This success shows that, with existing tools and newcomers such as vaccines, a malaria-free world is a realistic aspiration.

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