By Charles Stokes
Malaria has long been intertwined in world history, with characteristic malaria symptoms noted as far back as 2700 BCE. Unfortunately, malaria today remains a deadly disease, one that also holds back economic activity. The good news is that important progress is helping to better control malaria—even eliminating indigenous cases in some parts of the world.
The CDC Foundation recently announced a new consortium with the goal of ending malaria on the island of Hispaniola. The consortium is being funded through a $29.9 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is bringing together partners led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to eliminate indigenous cases of malaria on the island of Hispaniola by 2020.
Hispaniola, which includes the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is the only remaining island in the Caribbean where malaria is endemic. In Haiti, where the majority of Hispaniola’s malaria cases occur, there were more than 20,000 confirmed cases in 2013.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite. People with malaria often experience fever, chills, and flu-like illness. Left untreated, they may develop severe complications and die. However, malaria is preventable and treatable.
Eliminating malaria will save lives and result in increased productivity and economic gains for the people of Hispaniola as well as attract foreign investment and safeguard existing philanthropic investments. Additionally, eliminating malaria on the island will lessen the burden on Hispaniola’s public health systems, freeing up resources to tackle other pressing health issues.
The Haiti Malaria Elimination Consortium (HaMEC) being formed through this grant will work closely with the international community and partners on Hispaniola to eliminate indigenous cases of malaria in Haiti. HaMEC includes three Atlanta-based organizations—CDC, the CDC Foundation and The Carter Center Center. In addition, HaMEC includes the Haiti Ministry of Public Health and Population, the Dominican Republic Ministry of Public Health, the Pan American Health Organization, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
These organizations will collectively work to assist the countries of Hispaniola in developing, adopting and implementing an evidence-based strategy and operational plan for achieving malaria elimination. The group will also secure the additional financial resources needed to achieve elimination, improve and refine malaria surveillance systems, and reduce malaria transmission through implementation of effective community-based interventions that are tailored to the level of malaria risk in high-prevalence areas. The goal of the group is to eliminate malaria on Hispaniola by 2020.
Learn how you can support the effort to make malaria history in Hispaniola.
Stokes is president and CEO of the CDC Foundation