Cabo Verde: ‘On track’ for malaria-free status – WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) highlighted on Monday the “great work” of Cabo Verde in malaria control and said the country is in “good condition” to obtain certification as a malaria-free country.

“The fact of not having a local case of malaria in three years indicates that there was great work done, in terms of the control of the vector and the disease,” assessed the WHO representative in Ca Verbode, Daniel Kertész, on behalf of a mission of the organisation that started today, in Praia, a working visit to the country for pre-certification for malaria elimination.

The team will spend a fortnight assessing the progress made in implementing previous WHO recommendations, providing guidance to health professionals and authorities, reviewing all the country’s documentation on this issue and assisting in developing an action plan and timeline for certification, in collaboration with national authorities.

“The ministry of health and all health professionals in this country have done a lot of work to ensure the elimination of malaria from circulation,” he said, noting that one of the conditions for certification is not to have any autochthonous cases for three years. The country has already gone more than four years without cases of local transmission, and last year 21 imported cases were recorded.

For this reason, the WHO representative said he believed the country would obtain the elimination certification, although he did not commit to dates for that, as Cape Verde is yet to receive a final independent certification mission.

The same official insisted that the current mission will identify gaps and challenges in the country, emphasising that another condition is the certainty that Cabo Verde will not have local transmission of the disease again.

“Another condition for certification is to ensure that the country can manage any importation in the future, to avoid the re-establishment of malaria here,” pointed out Daniel Kertész, for whom the country is in a “good condition” to obtain certification.

The team began its work with an audience with the assistant secretary of state for health, Evandro Monteiro, followed by participation in a workshop with Cabo Verdean authorities and officials from the National Programme to Fight Malaria (PNLP).

In addition to meetings with various institutions, the technicians will visit the islands of Santiago, Boa Vista and Sao Vicente, all as part of WHO support to the ministry of health to prepare Cabo Verde for the certification process of elimination of malaria.

The director of the national programme, António Moreira, also believes that obtaining the certificate of elimination of malaria has contributed to this, noting the involvement of successive governments, the population and different actors of civil society.

“I think we have taken a big step towards the elimination of malaria in Cabo Verde,” he said, noting that it is still a “risk and vulnerable country” because it is open and close to endemic countries. There are climatic conditions for the vector mosquito to develop.

“All this constitutes a risk. Hence the need, together with the WHO, to draw up a plan to prevent the reintroduction of malaria, that is, all the gains must be consolidated, and it requires a change of ‘chip’ at the general level, of the population, concerning this disease,” he urged.

In May, the Cabo Verde ministry of health set up an independent advisory committee to support the certification process, which is made up of nine members, such as academics, public health experts, health professionals involved in other disease control programmes and representatives of health sectors, among others, and has a two-year mandate, with the president elected by his peers.

According to the National Malaria Control Programme of the National Health Directorate, the disease in Cabo Verde is unstable, of seasonal transmission is strongly dependent on rainfall, which is present on four islands (Santiago, Boa Vista, Sao Vicente and Maio).

Malaria, a curable disease, is transmitted between humans through the bite of an infected mosquito and is one of the main causes of death globally.