China was officially certified ‘malaria-free’ by the World Health Organization (WHO), becoming the second country in the Asia Pacific region to get the tag, after Sri Lanka in 2016.
China has now maintained zero indigenous malaria cases for four consecutive years, down from an estimated 30 million cases and 300,000 deaths per year in the 1940s. China becomes the 40th territory to be certified malaria-free by WHO.
Over 10 years ago, the national malaria programme implemented the strategy “tracking infectious sources through surveillance, and response to clear the epidemics” with the 1-3-7 norm. The norm sets out clear timelines for diagnosis (one day), confirmation and risk assessment (three days) and action to contain all malaria cases (seven days) to prevent further transmission.
This approach has since been adopted and tailored to local settings by several countries in the region. Over the past 10 years, countries in the Asia Pacific region have almost halved the number of malaria deaths and cases and have made significant gains towards eliminating the disease by 2030. However, over two-and-a-half billion people are still at risk, and in some areas, malaria cases continue to rise.
The last countries to gain the status were El Salvador (2021), Algeria and Argentina (2019), and Paraguay and Uzbekistan (2018). There is a separate list of 61 countries where malaria never existed, or disappeared without specific measures.
Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites. The parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes, called “malaria vectors.” There are 5 parasite species that cause malaria in humans, and 2 of these species – P. falciparum and P. vivax – pose the greatest threat. In 2019, there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria worldwide. The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 409 000 in 2019.