End of malaria in sight for São Tomé and PríncipeFeb 15, 2016
A new financing agreement between the Global Fund and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in São Tomé and Príncipe targets those most at risk of contracting malaria and paves the way for elimination of the disease in the country.
The $6 million grant, signed last month, will focus on increasing detection of malaria cases, broadening access to prevention methods like insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor spraying, and treating new cases. It will also strengthen the national epidemiological and entomological surveillance systems so that robust responses are in place when the country enters the final elimination phase of the disease.
Over the past decade, the country and its partners UNDP and the Global Fund have made remarkable progress in the fight to control malaria and stop it from spreading. In fact, Sao Tome and Principe last month received its third Award for Excellence from the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) for achieving the Millennium Development Goal 6 on malaria, which called for reversing the incidence of malaria and other diseases by 2015. “The awards are a clear recognition of just how far the country has come in dramatically reducing malaria,” says Jose Salema, UN Resident Coordinator in São Tomé and Príncipe.
The annual incidence of malaria in São Tomé and Príncipe, which has a population of 187,064, dropped from 33.8 per 1,000 people in 2009 to 9.7 per 1000 in 2014, according to the World Malaria Report 2014. That same year, the country reported zero malaria-related deaths.
“The new grant will provide a critical push to reach that final goal of completely eliminating the life-threatening disease over the whole country,” says Mamisoa Rangers, Programme Manager, UNDP Global Fund Project Support Unit in São Tomé and Príncipe.
The country’s momentum toward malaria elimination is of crucial importance to attaining Sustainable Development Goal 3, adopted by the international community in September 2015, which aims to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”, and specifically to end the epidemic of malaria, among other diseases, by 2030.
While the island of Príncipe has now reached the pre-elimination phase, São Tomé is experiencing low transmission rates. The new funding will aim to reduce the number of new cases of malaria to less than five per 1,000 people on the island of São Tomé and to less than one case per 1,000 on Príncipe.
Tackling malaria is vital to the health of people in São Tomé and Príncipe. Infants, children under five years of age, and pregnant women are particularly at risk of contracting and developing severe forms of the disease. The new programme will specifically target those groups.
In addition to its direct effects on health, malaria has an impact on the economy and development of the country in general. In Africa alone, malaria related-illnesses and mortality cost the economy up to US$12 billion annually. In São Tomé and Príncipe, recent progress in controlling malaria has brought a range of long-lasting social and economic benefits like children staying in school and adults remaining employed.
“The government, its partners and the people of São Tomé have made great strides in realizing the dream of a country free from malaria. We must sustain the gains,” says Hamilton Nascimento, Coordinator of the National Malaria Control Programme at the Ministry of Health.
“The same strength that the country has used to fight malaria must now be applied to addressing TB and HIV,” says the UN’s Mr. Salema. “We look forward to the continued collaboration between the Global Fund and UNDP for even better health results in this beautiful archipelago,” he says.
According to the latest estimates from WHO, there were 214 million new cases of malaria worldwide in 2015, of which 88 per cent were in Africa. In 2015, malaria caused an estimated 438 000 malaria deaths worldwide, of which roughly 306,000 were children under five.