WASHINGTON, Oct.  29,  CMC – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has announced that two municipalities in Haiti were among six in the Americas to be awarded “Malaria Champions of the Americas” prizes for 2020 for their work in applying “effective, safe malaria interventions” during the COVID-19 pandemic in four countries.

The winning projects include two from Haiti, in the localities of Les Anglaise and Les Irois; two from Brazil, Atalaia do Norte, and Oeiras do Pará and one from Colombia in Quibdó; and one from Honduras, in Puerto Lempira.

The awards were presented on Wednesday at a Malaria Day in the Americas event by PAHO, the United Nations Foundation, and other partners. 

Videos illustrating each of the projects were shown at the forum, “Zero malaria starts with me: Fight COVID-19. Protect Health Workers. End of Malaria.”

“We are in unprecedented times, but our support and commitment to the global efforts against malaria elimination is stronger than ever,” said Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, assistant director of PAHO. 

“Urgent action is needed to get the global response to malaria back on track – and ownership of the challenge lies in the hands of countries most affected by malaria,” he added.

PAHO said malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes.

About half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria, particularly those living in lower-income countries, PAHO said. 

In the Americas, which includes the Caribbean, 132 million people live in areas at risk of malaria.

The theme for Malaria Day in the Americas 2020 was “Zero malaria starts with me,” highlighting the importance of sustained malaria efforts while protecting health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the progress of some countries in the region toward eliminating the disease, such as Argentina, El Salvador, and Paraguay, and the sustained trend in reduction of malaria from 2005 to 2014, PAHO said that, in recent years, the Region of the Americas experienced an increase in the total number of cases and deaths.

Between 2015 and 2018, malaria cases increased by 69 percent, and deaths rose by 111 percent, mainly from surges in transmission and outbreaks of malaria in areas with complex socio-political and economic challenges, PAHO said. 

PAHO said it is unclear what effects the COVID-19 pandemic will have on malaria cases.

In Haiti, two municipalities with high malaria burdens, Les Anglaise, Department of Sud, and Les Irois, Department of Grand’Anse, were named Malaria Champions for “effective planning and strong partnerships using a community health worker approach to reduce their malaria burdens,” PAHO said.

The awards were presented based on the endorsement of a jury panel chaired by Karen A. Goralski, chief executive officer of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Partners involved in Malaria Champions include PAHO, the UN Foundation, the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Communication Programs, Florida International University, and the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Health.

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