Cape Verde, the small island nation off the coast of West Africa, has been declared malaria-free for the first time in 50 years.
The West African nation with a population of about 600,000 was given the status by the World Health Organization (WHO) as it has not reported a single case of local transmission in three years.
Cape Verde is the third African country to be certified by the WHO as malaria-free, joining Mauritius and Algeria which were certified in 1973 and 2019 respectively.
According to experts, the malaria-free certification by the WHO is given when a country has proven beyond reasonable doubt that the local transmission of all human malaria parasites has been interrupted nationwide for at least the past three consecutive years, and that measures are in place to prevent their re-establishment.
Experts have described the WHO certification of Cape Verde as a major achievement.
Malaria is most prevalent on the continent and the killer disease mostly spreads to people through the bites of some infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
In 2022, 580,000 people in Africa died from the disease, amounting to 95% of fatalities worldwide, the BBC reports.
According to the latest WHO World malaria report, there were 249 million cases of malaria in 2022 compared to 244 million cases in 2021, while the estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 608,000 in 2022 compared to 610,000 in 2021.
Vaccines are now being used in some places but monitoring the disease and avoiding mosquito bites are the most effective ways to prevent malaria.
The small island nation has taken years to reach this point by strengthening its health systems and increasing access to diagnosis and treatment of all cases. Similarly, surveillance officers have been detecting cases early, as well as controlling mosquitoes.
Cape Verde’s plan for malaria control has also ensured free care and diagnostic services for international travellers and migrants, with the aim of stemming the tide of cases imported from mainland Africa.
The nation’s Minister of Health, Dr Filomena Gonçalves, told the BBC: “This success reflects the hard work and dedication of countless health professionals, collaborators, communities and international partners. It is a testimony to what can be achieved through collective commitment to improving public health.”