GENEVA - The World Health Organization has certified Algeria and Argentina as malaria-free, following three consecutive years where no new cases of the deadly disease have been reported.
The malaria parasite, which kills more than 400,000 people each year, was discovered in Algeria in 1880. Most of the victims are children under the age of five in Africa.
The World Health Organization reports Algeria is the second country in Africa to be recognized as malaria-free after Mauritius, which was certified in 1973. Argentina is the second country in South America, after Paraguay, to be declared malaria-free.
A combination of many factors has made the achievements possible, according to WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib.
'It is very good news for Algeria and Argentina, but also for the two continents and globally also,' Chaib told VOA. 'It means that malaria can be beaten. But the efforts should continue because we need also to enhance surveillance to be able to detect if any cases of malaria are still present in the country.'
WHO says the two countries eliminated malaria by employing a number of basic, well-proven measures, including insecticide-treated mosquito nets. It says both countries improved surveillance, which enabled them to rapidly identify and treat new cases of malaria. In addition, the two countries provided free diagnosis and treatment within their borders.
In the case of Argentina, WHO says cross-border collaboration with its neighbor Bolivia was critical in combating the disease. It says both countries teamed up to spray more than 22,000 homes in border areas and to conduct widespread malaria testing.
WHO says Algeria's and Argentina's unwavering commitment, perseverance and success in combating malaria should serve as a model for other countries.
Both Algeria and Argentina have succeeded in ridding themselves of the deadly malaria parasite without the benefit of a vaccine. Health officials are hopeful this task becomes easier with the recent rollout of the first promising malaria vaccine in Ghana and Malawi.