12 January 2024
The World Health Organization (WHO) has certified Cabo Verde as a malaria-free country, marking a significant achievement in global health. With this announcement, Cabo Verde joins the ranks of 43 countries and 1 territory that WHO has awarded this certification.
Cabo Verde is the third country to be certified in the WHO African region, joining Mauritius and Algeria which were certified in 1973 and 2019 respectively. Malaria burden is the highest on the African continent, which accounted for approximately 95% of global malaria cases and 96% of related deaths in 2021.
Certification of malaria elimination will drive positive development on many fronts for Cabo Verde. Systems and structures built for malaria elimination have strengthened the health system and will be used to fight other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever. Travellers from non-malaria endemic regions can now travel to the islands of Cabo Verde without fear of local malaria infections and the potential inconvenience of preventive treatment measures. This has the potential to attract more visitors and boost socio-economic activities in a country where tourism accounts for approximately 25 per cent of GDP.
Certification of malaria elimination is the official recognition by WHO of a country’s malaria-free status. The certification is granted when a country has shown – with rigorous, credible evidence – that the chain of indigenous malaria transmission by Anopheles mosquitoes has been interrupted nationwide for at least the past three consecutive years. A country must also demonstrate the capacity to prevent the re-establishment of transmission.
Cabo Verde’s journey to malaria elimination has been long and received a boost with the inclusion of this objective in its national health policy in 2007. A strategic malaria plan from 2009 to 2013 laid the groundwork for success, focusing on expanded diagnosis, early and effective treatment, and the reporting and investigating all cases. To stem the tide of imported cases from mainland Africa, diagnosis and treatment were provided free of charge to international travellers and migrants.
In 2017 the country turned an outbreak into an opportunity. Cabo Verde identified problems and made improvements, leading to zero indigenous cases for three consecutive years.
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the country safeguarded progress; efforts focused on improving the quality and sustainability of vector control and malaria diagnosis, strengthening malaria surveillance – especially at ports, airports, in the capital city and areas with a risk of malaria re-establishment.
Collaboration between the Ministry of Health and various government departments focused on the environment, agriculture, transportation, tourism, and more, played a pivotal role in Cabo Verde’s success. The inter-ministerial commission for vector control, chaired by the Prime Minister was key to elimination. The collaborative effort and the commitment of community-based organizations and NGOs demonstrate the importance of a holistic approach to public health.
As Cabo Verde celebrates this monumental achievement, the global community commends its leaders, healthcare professionals, and citizens for their dedication to eliminating malaria and creating a healthier future for all.
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