PAHO’s ‘Municipalities for Zero Malaria’ initiative to tackle malaria at the local level

Malaria is endemic in 19 countries and territories in the Americas, but half of all cases are concentrated in only 25 municipalities. This year, PAHO Malaria Champions will honor efforts against the disease at local level, a key approach to eliminating malaria by 2030

Washington, D.C., 25 April 2019 (PAHO/WHO) — A new initiative from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), aims to address the burden of malaria in the Region of the Americas where it is most concentrated. “Municipalities for Zero Malaria” will focus on bringing together key partner organizations, relevant government agencies, and municipalities affected by malaria in order to support local efforts to take effective action against the disease.

The launch takes place in the framework of the World Malaria Day 2019 (April 25) celebrations and is part of a concerted effort to tackle the noted concentration of most cases of malaria in just a few municipalities. In 2017, for example, 25 municipalities accounted for approximately 50% of all reported cases of malaria in the Region of the Americas. At a country-level, between 25-70% of all cases of malaria are usually concentrated within no more than three municipalities.

“It is clear that acting where the problem is most concentrated is crucial to achieving the malaria elimination goals that countries have committed to,” said Dr. Marcos Espinal, Director of the Department of Communicable Diseases and Environmental Determinants of Health at PAHO. “Organizations, citizens and local government authorities must be engaged in developing key interventions for malaria elimination at a municipality level if we are to ensure that no one gets left behind,” he added.

The initiative supports municipalities in taking measures to address malaria including strengthening surveillance and capacities for monitoring at local level; improving access to early diagnosis and treatment; and empowering communities and raising awareness of the importance of health seeking behavior, among other aspects.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2018 World Malaria Report highlights that progress in fighting malaria stalled globally in the period 2015 to 2017. In the Americas, malaria is still endemic in 19 countries and territories. Cases increased by 26% in the last year and around 108 million people are estimated to be at risk. While countries in the Region have officially expressed their commitment to malaria elimination, local support and resources are still inadequate in many areas where malaria transmission remains pervasive.

The theme of World Malaria Day 2019 – “Zero malaria starts with me” – underscores the need to empower communities to take ownership of malaria targets, challenges and response with the support of the global community. Only by addressing malaria at a community level will the common goal of a world free of malaria be achieved.

Malaria Champions with a municipal focus

Currently in its 11th year, the Malaria Champions of the Americas platform, which honors best practices towards overcoming the challenges of malaria, will serve as a key platform for the promotion of the new initiative.

“As well as recognizing efforts to address malaria, we must also provide a renewed focus on the final frontier of malaria elimination in the Americas – high burden municipalities,” said Dr. Espinal. To achieve this, a call is being launched for countries to nominate a municipality that can form part of this movement. Ideal candidates are municipalities with high malaria burdens that are committed in terms of efforts and intentions, to becoming Malaria Champions. Nominations will be accepted from 25 April to 24-May 2019.

Over the next few years, PAHO will work alongside these municipalities in tackling malaria at the local level. “Our hope is that the creation of this initiative will help us give rise to a new generation of Malaria Champions,” added Dr. Espinal.

The focus of Malaria Champions of the Americas on high burden municipalities through the ‘Municipalities for Zero Malaria’ initiative is a concrete expression of the Region of the America’s commitment to malaria elimination and prevention of reestablishment. The renewed focus is also in line with the key principles of WHO and Roll Back Malaria’s High Burden to High Impact approach, which encourages the prioritization of high-burden settings.

The awards are sponsored by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), the United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation), the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (GWSPH), the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Communication Programs (JHU-CCP), the Global Health Consortium at the Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work at Florida International University (FIU-GHC), and the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH).

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