Seattle, February 25, 2021 – Today the World Health Organization (WHO) certified El Salvador malaria-free, making it the first country in Central America to achieve this progress towards elimination. El Salvador’s success meeting one of the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria goals contributes to the shrinking of the global malaria map and marks a total of 21 countries since 2000 that have safeguarded the required three consecutive years of zero indigenous malaria cases.
When countries achieve malaria-free certification, they simultaneously benefit from stronger health systems and greater economic gains. Leveraging the strategies and infrastructure used to eliminate malaria helps countries build resilient health systems that are better prepared for current and future pandemics, such as El Salvador has done against COVID-19 which is also a febrile disease. Malaria investments further provide a pathway to health security by helping secure supply chains, expand community health service delivery, and remove burdens such as fevers from the health system.
“Removing malaria fevers from the health system and achieving zero malaria cases not only saves lives but also frees up vital capacity for countries to focus on other health and development priorities,” said CEO of Malaria No More, Martin Edlund. “El Salvador’s journey from malaria hotspot to malaria-free success story underscores how sustained investment in malaria interventions and community health infrastructure can get a country to zero. While a child still dies every two minutes from this preventable disease, El Salvador’s malaria-free certification – sustained for three years despite the added challenge of COVID-19 – sets an inspiring example for the region and demonstrates that the end of malaria is possible.”
El Salvador’s data-driven elimination strategy prioritized case management and vector control and relied on a robust surveillance system supported by an extensive diagnostic network of more than 5,000 trusted community health workers. This network ensured the immediate identification and treatment of every malaria case and guarded against the spread of other infectious diseases.
Domestic funding also provides a critical foundation for a country’s efforts to execute an elimination strategy and prevent re-establishment of malaria transmission. According to the World Malaria Report 2020, approximately 87% of all funding for malaria control and elimination in the entire Americas region came from domestic sources in the period 2018-2019. Indeed, relative to its neighbors, El Salvador consistently invested more domestic resources in this critical fight.
While El Salvador’s fight against malaria has been largely funded through domestic resources, global partners including the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the WHO, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and International Development Agency (USAID), and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) have provided critical technical support, resources, and key interventions that accelerated progress. In addition, regional initiatives serve as important partners for countries as they provide essential support and funding, including a notable USD$747,500 to El Salvador from the Regional Malaria Elimination Initiative in Mesoamerica and Dominican Republic (RMEI), in the fight against malaria.
“El Salvador represents a regional malaria success story that will have a positive impact on global elimination efforts,” said Malaria No More’s Global Policy and Advocacy Managing Director Josh Blumenfeld. “Support from Global Fund investments and the RMEI, and domestic financing invested in community health workers and surveillance, have been critical to achieving this remarkable progress, while also helping El Salvador be better positioned to respond to new health threats including COVID-19.”
Certification is granted when a country proves that it has interrupted indigenous disease transmission for at least three consecutive years, which El Salvador has done for the past four years. El Salvador’s commitment and success to fight this preventable, deadly disease prevented decades of progress from being undermined by the COVID-19 pandemic and protects two decades of global efforts that have saved 7.6 million lives and prevented 1.5 billion cases of malaria. This achievement contributes to global success which has dramatically reduced the burden and put the world on a path to ending malaria.
 RMEI Annual Work Plan 2021 (pg. 40)
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About Malaria No More
Malaria No More envisions a world where no one dies from a mosquito bite. More than a decade into our mission, our work has contributed to historic progress toward this goal. Now, we’re mobilizing the political commitment, funding, and innovation required to achieve what would be one of the greatest humanitarian accomplishments – ending malaria within our generation. For more information, visit www.malarianomore.org.