São Tomé and Príncipe poised to eliminate malaria

Distribution of insecticide-treated nets are one of the strategies that have helped decrease the risks of malaria. Photo: UNDP in Sao Tomé

19-year old Anita lives with her family in Trindade, in the district of Mé-Zochi in Sao Tomé. This mosquito-infested region is now malaria-free - something unimaginable just a few years ago.

“Only five years ago I was constantly sick, caused by malaria,” explains Anita. “The hospital was like my second home.”

Highlights

  • The number of malaria-related cases dropped more than 90% between 2001 and 2010 in Sao Tomé, with no malaria-related deaths reported in 2014.
  • The cost of the fight against malaria has dropped by more than 98%.
  • Over 100,000 long-lasting insecticide-treated nets were distributed to 80 % of households.

São Tomé and Príncipe, a country benefiting from UNDP support with its national malaria control programme, is in the vanguard of the fight against malaria in Africa.  The country recorded no malaria-related deaths in 2014, thus placing it in the malaria pre-elimination stage.

Two strategies have been quite successful in fighting malaria: the use of mosquito nets and spraying insecticides inside homes.  As a result, there has been a decrease of over 98% in the cost of malaria control, as well as a drop in the number of students absent from school.

“Today, with households been sprayed annually with insecticides and long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets, my family is now healthy,” said Anita. “We are also less plagued by insects.”

The number of malaria-related cases fell from 39 to 11 new cases per thousand inhabitants between 2011 and 2014, and the number of deaths from nineteen to zero cases.

In order to strengthen and maintain these results, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria has awarded nearly US$11 million for the project managed by UNDP, specifically targeting pregnant women and children under five.

Together with the Global Fund, UNDP is also importing medicines, anti-malarials, and laboratory equipment needed by the country. Health professionals and community health-care workers are trained in malaria case management and the anti-malarials are distributed for free under medical prescription in the public sector. The initiative has also distributed more than 100,000 long-lasting insecticidal nets to over 80% of households across the country.

Africa is the most vulnerable continent to malaria, with 80% of the 219 million cases estimated worldwide in 2010, and 90% of deaths (WHO). In highly endemic countries, it is estimated that malaria causes an average annual reduction of the economic growth of 1.3%, partly due to persons off work due to illness or staying home with sick children.

For Anita and her family, the day is coming when this mortal and easily preventable disease will be completely treated in Sao Tomé. “My life changed, I have nearly forgotten malaria,” says the young woman. “But I am still in charge of the household cleaning, filling the wetlands and collecting waste to prevent the spread of mosquitoes.”

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