WASHINGTON, DC, United States (CMC) – The World Health Organization (WHO) has certified Belize as malaria-free, following the country's over 70 years of continued efforts to stamp out the disease.
"WHO congratulates the people and Government of Belize and their network of global and local partners for this achievement," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general.
"Belize is another example of how, with the right tools and the right approach, we can dream of a malaria-free future."
Belize now joins 41 other countries to have been certified as malaria-free by WHO, including 11 countries in the region of the Americas.
"Following the achievement of Paraguay, Argentina, and El Salvador, Belize Wednesday became the fourth country in the Americas and the second in Central America to be certified as free of malaria over the last five years," PAHO Director Dr Jarbas Barbosa said.
"This is an extraordinary achievement for Belize, and will also serve as inspiration for the other endemic countries in the Americas."
WHO said that over the last three decades, Belize has achieved a dramatic reduction in its malaria burden, from a peak of about 10,000 cases in 1994 to zero indigenous cases in 2019. Belize's success has hinged on strong surveillance for malaria, access to diagnosis, and effective vector control methods, including insecticide-treated mosquito nets and indoor spraying of insecticides. Trained community health workers have played a vital role in timely diagnosis and treatment.
In 2015, Belize reoriented its malaria programme to place a greater focus on enhanced surveillance among high-risk populations, allowing for strategic targeting of interventions and available resources in priority areas. It maintained malaria surveillance efforts during the COVID- 19 pandemic and made efforts to integrate malaria and COVID-19 surveillance systems.
The WHO said that a long-standing partnership between the national malaria programme and the Belize Vector Ecology Center ensured entomological surveillance which provided critical information on the distribution and density of malaria-carrying mosquitoes and their resistance to insecticides used in malaria control. Cross-border collaboration with neighbouring Mexico and Guatemala has also been key to success.