WHO announced Wednesday that China was awarded a malaria-free certification, which the organization said was a "notable feat" after the country reported 30 million annual cases of it in the 1940s.
"Their success was hard-earned and came only after decades of targeted and sustained action," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. "With this announcement, China joins the growing number of countries that are showing the world that a malaria-free future is a viable goal."
As WHO explained, the Chinese government in 1967 launched a nationwide research program seeking malaria treatments, which led to the discovery of artemisinin, the "core compound" of the most effective antimalarial drugs. Going back to the 1950s, China also provided preventive antimalarial medicines to people and "made a major effort to reduce mosquito breeding grounds and stepped up the use of insecticide spraying in homes." In the 1980s, China began to "extensively" test the use of insecticide-treated nets, which led to "substantial reductions in malaria incidence," WHO said. Cases plummeted by 1990, and in 2010, China implemented a national plan to eliminate malaria and a strategy that included taking measures to prevent it from spreading within seven days of a diagnosis.
According to The New York Times, Chinese officials have looked to share lessons from their fight against malaria with Africa, and Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention officials held a symposium on the subject with WHO and Harvard University last year.
"By leveraging technology, implementing robust surveillance strategies, and firmly integrating the malaria control program into the country's health system, China made quick work of one of the most persistent diseases on Earth," Harvard's Chris Sweeney said. "It's a remarkable success story, and may hold valuable lessons for countries still struggling under the burden of this ancient killer."