By Sola Ogundipe
The World Health Organization (WHO) has certified Uzbekistan as malaria-free, confirming the end of the country’s half-century long battle for malaria elimination within its borders.
Uzbekistan becomes the second country in 2018 to be certified malaria-free – Paraguay was certified in June – marking another milestone on the road to ending the disease for good.
“Malaria No More commends the government of Uzbekistan for its resilience and determination to eliminate malaria once and for all. Uzbekistan’s decade-long commitment demonstrates the government’s recognition that malaria stood in the way of development, and that ridding the country of the disease was critical to improving economic outlook and protecting the health of its people,” said Martin Edlund, CEO of Malaria No More.
Uzbekistan first eliminated malaria in 1961, but struggled to maintain elimination as malaria cases continued to flow in from neighboring countries.
In 2000, recognising the barriers that having malaria within its borders had on the country’s economy and overall health of its citizens, the government of Uzbekistan stepped up its investment and implemented a holistic, multi-sectoral approach that went beyond health, with support from other ministries – agriculture, education and transportation.
Highlighting the critical factors needed to get the job done, the WHO certification committee cited Uzbekistan’s decision to maintain its support of the nation’s primary health care system – the backbone of the malaria response – even during the economic crisis that gripped the country during the 1990s; its use of data to better target malaria interventions where they’re need most; and, its approach towards early detection, diagnosis and efficacious treatment of malaria patients – free of charge and irrespective of nationality.
Another critical factor was support from non-governmental organizations and partners, particularly the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, which played a vital role in Uzbekistan’s achievement by providing financial support to ensure the national malaria program had the full amount of insecticide-treated bed nets, Indoor Residual Spraying equipment, medicines and other tools needed to protect its citizens from malaria.