Cape Verde, a small island nation off the coast of West Africa, has achieved a significant milestone by being declared malaria-free by the World Health Organization (WHO).
This marks the first time in 50 years that a sub-Saharan African nation has attained this status, and experts are hailing it as a major accomplishment.
The WHO bestowed this recognition upon Cape Verde due to its remarkable feat of not reporting any local transmission cases for three consecutive years.
Malaria, a devastating disease caused by a complex parasite transmitted through mosquito bites, claims a staggering number of lives in Africa, with 95% of global fatalities occurring on the continent.
In 2022 alone, 580,000 people succumbed to the disease.
While vaccines are becoming more widely available, disease monitoring and mosquito bite prevention remain the most effective measures against malaria.
Cape Verde’s success in eradicating the disease can be attributed to years of fortifying its health systems, improving access to diagnosis and treatment, and implementing vigilant surveillance.
The nation’s meticulous plan for malaria control includes early detection of cases and mosquito control efforts.
Furthermore, Cape Verde’s commitment extends to providing free care and diagnostic services for international travelers and migrants, aiming to curb the importation of cases from mainland Africa.
Cape Verde’s Health Minister, Dr. Filomena Gonçalves, emphasized that this achievement is a result of collective dedication from health professionals, collaborators, communities, and international partners.
Dr. Dorothy Achu Fosah of the WHO Africa office expressed excitement and satisfaction with the outcome, noting that Cape Verde has successfully ousted malaria from its borders.
Health experts view Cape Verde’s success as a model for other small countries in Africa, demonstrating that containment and elimination policies can effectively combat malaria.
In the past, malaria was prevalent on all nine inhabited islands of Cape Verde, but concentrated efforts on Sáo Tiago, the remaining affected island, led to its elimination.
The unique geographic advantage of being an archipelago facilitated Cape Verde’s success.
Mapping out affected areas and monitoring the disease’s transfer between islands was more manageable compared to continuous land masses.
In contrast, countries with highly mobile populations, like Nigeria, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, face challenges in eradicating malaria due to regular border crossings.
The WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressed hope for a malaria-free world, stating that Cape Verde’s success, along with existing tools and new vaccines, inspires the possibility of daring to dream of a future without malaria.
The last sub-Saharan African country to achieve malaria-free status was Mauritius in 1973, while Algeria in North Africa attained this milestone in 2019.