Pan American Health Organization adopts new plan of action for malaria elimination

In September, health ministers across the Americas approved a new plan for malaria elimination and prevention of reintroduction in the Americas. The Plan of Action for Malaria Elimination 2016-2020 outlines the region’s commitments to reducing local malaria transmission over the next four years. The new plan was adopted during the 55th meeting of the Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Washington, DC. The Directing Council for PAHO meets to discuss and analyze health policy, set priorities, and foster collaboration on public health issues at the regional level.

The Americas have made significant progress towards malaria elimination. Between 2000 and 2014, the region witnessed a decrease in malaria cases and deaths of 67 and 79 percent respectively. However, during this same time period, 27 of the region’s Member States and territories previously declared malaria-free reported an average of 2,000 cases annually. Many countries have also experienced significant outbreaks in recent years, including Venezuela.

The new Plan of Action outlines a series of targets to be met by 2020 in order to intensify the fight against malaria. These include reducing morbidity and mortality by 40 percent, implementing efforts to eliminate malaria in 18 endemic countries, developing innovative strategies in countries that have made limited progress thus far, and attaining malaria-free status in at least four countries. The region intends to achieve these goals by implementing universal access to malaria prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, and strengthening surveillance, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation, and operational research.

PAHO’s plan will have a particular focus on high risk geographies and populations. Many of these efforts will be focused on the Amazonian basin, in which ten high-burden municipalities account for 44 percent of malaria cases in the Americas. Further efforts will be aimed at vulnerable groups, including indigenous populations, those individuals 15 to 49 years of age, and mobile populations, such as miners, migrants and laborers.

According to the plan, approximately US$30 million is required over the period of 2016-2020 in PAHO technical cooperation to facilitate cross-border collaboration. The current level of investment will not allow for an increase in the scale of efforts, and the plan emphasizes that greater domestic investments will be required particularly as countries move from large-scale interventions to high-quality surveillance and response systems that underpin successful elimination.