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“Malaria Champions” awarded in fight to end epidemic of disease in Americas  

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Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2020. 3:24 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: On the occasion of Malaria Day in the Americas hosted on Wednesday, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization, the United Nations Foundation, and other partners handed out six prizes to “Malaria Champions of the Americas” in managing malaria interventions in four countries during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Municipalities from Brazil to Haiti and Colombia to Honduras were awarded for their efforts to end the life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. Approximately half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria, particularly those living in lower-income countries. In the Americas, including Belize, 132 million people live in areas at risk 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. 
 
The theme for Malaria Day in the Americas 2020 is “Zero malaria starts with me” and it highlights the importance of sustained malaria efforts, while protecting health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Incidence of the disease was reduced from 2005 to 2014 but has returned between 2015 and 2018, with cases up 69 percent and deaths up 111 percent mainly from surges in transmission and outbreaks of malaria in areas with complex socio-political and economic challenges.
 
The winning communities used different measures including active community participation combined with surveillance, vector control, active case detection, and treatment; improved operational interventions to safely deliver health services; employing community health workers and operating under continuing challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The awards were presented based on the endorsement of a jury panel chaired by Karen A. Goraleski, CEO 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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