How did China achieve malaria-free status?
Catherine Newman


China has been declared malaria-free by the World Health Organization (WHO), after a 70-year effort to wipe out the disease. It has been four years since the country has registered a case. 

During the 1940s, China reported 30 million cases a year but now it is the first country in the Western Pacific region to be awarded malaria-free status in three decades. Other countries in the region that have previously achieved this include Australia (1981), Singapore (1982) and Brunei (1987). 

Globally, 40 countries and territories have been granted a malaria-free certification from the WHO, including most recently El Salvador (2021), Algeria (2019) and Argentina (2019).



So how did China achieve it? 

Pedro Alonso, the director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme, says part of the success of eliminating such a deadly disease was not only China's long-term vision but also its forward-thinking.

"This was a long-term plan, a long-term decision by the Chinese government, six or seven decades ago to eliminate malaria when malaria was a major cause of disease, death and poverty. 

"Thus, they started launching campaigns that involved a whole-government approach, not just the health sector." 

Alonso also says there has been a "sustained research culture," that led to China deploying insecticide-treated bed nets two or three decades ahead of any other country in the world.

He highlights the importance of China's efforts to develop anti-malarial medicines, which not only went on to win a Nobel Prize but more importantly "became the backbone of all [our] malaria treatment across the world." 


The WHO said China has now gone four years without registering a case, giving it malaria-free certification. /Visual China/VCG

The WHO said China has now gone four years without registering a case, giving it malaria-free certification. /Visual China/VCG


So what does China's success in battling malaria signify for the rest of the world in hoping to become malaria-free?

"We're not close, we have to manage expectations," says Alonso, pointing out that it's a long process and that it will be three or four decades before the world is completely free of one of its biggest killers. Despite this, he says China's achievement does signify a light at the end of a tunnel. 

He says the significance of China winning this fight is that "it's not just the largest country that has eliminated malaria in terms of landmass but also the largest and the most populated country." 

"If a country that was a very high-burdened country with 30 million cases can get to zero, it means that African countries that still bear the brunt of the disease across the globe, that still have 400,000 deaths due to malaria every year, they have 200 million malaria cases every year, they too can get to zero."

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