The World Health Organisation (WHO) is launching a new initiative to halt malaria transmission in 25 more countries by 2025.
The WHO will launch the initiative on World Malaria Day on April 25.
Thailand, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia are among the countries the WHO aimed to make malaria-free.
The 25 countries would receive specialised support and technical guidance to help eradicate the disease.
Countries in South-East Asia’s Greater Mekong region had already made great strides: the number of cases in the region comprised of Cambodia, China (Yunnan Province), Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam fell by 97 per cent between 2000 and 2020, the WHO said in a statement.
But the coronavirus crisis has emerged as a serious challenge to malaria responses worldwide.
“More than one year into the pandemic, substantial disruptions to health services persist across the globe,’’ WHO said.
In many countries, lockdowns and restrictions on the movement of people and goods led to delays in the delivery of insecticide-treated mosquito nets or indoor insecticide spraying campaigns.
Malaria diagnosis and treatment services were also interrupted.
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. It is preventable and curable.
Globally, 39 countries and territories have been recognised as malaria-free by the WHO. Eleven countries have been certified malaria-free in the last 20 years.
In 2019, there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria worldwide. The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 409,000 in 2019, according to the WHO.