Through international investment and a strong Gambian-led campaign, The Gambia has seen a significant drop in the prevalence of malaria and of new infections of the disease. With a prevalence of only 0.2 percent, the country can now see a clear path to 'no new cases' of malaria by the year 2020.
A media release from the Catholic Relief Services said that on July 11, the government of The Gambia will host an event alongside the U.S. Embassy; Catholic Relief Services (CRS); and The Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria (The Global Fund) that will highlight its progress.
"We are proud that The Gambia has made major strides in its fight against malaria," said Ms. Saffie Lowe-Ceesay, minister of Health and Social Welfare. "With the ongoing support of the international community, elimination of the disease is now within sight - a first for a sub-Saharan African country."
With support from The Global Fund, the Gambian government and CRS have been working together to eliminate malaria for more than a decade. Reaching nearly 2 million people in the last year alone, the work has included a broad range of prevention and control methods such as: ensuring access and proper use of bed-nets; spraying walls with insecticides; and ensuring rapid diagnosis, followed by proper treatment. In 2014, CRS began using seasonal malarial chemoprevention to help prevent malaria in children under the age of 5.
"Now is not the time to stop or even slow our work," said Annemarie Reilly, CRS' chief of staff and executive vice president of strategy and organizational development. "We know that the last mile will be the hardest, and that the disease can come back. But, with international support, we can make history."
In 2015, there were approximately 212 million cases of malaria worldwide. Nearly half a million people died, most of them children.
In The Gambia, all of the major stakeholders say that more international investment is needed to be able to fully eradicate the disease.
"By wiping out malaria we can raise up an entire community--a country even," said Mr. Abdoulie Mam Njie, executive secretary of the country coordinating mechanism of The Global Fund. "We are interested in not only sustaining the gains we've made so far, but in securing additional resources to win the battle against this deadly disease."
Ms. C. Patricia Alsup, the U.S. ambassador to The Gambia said: "We know elimination is possible, but more resources are needed to achieve this milestone. We need continued bilateral support from partners, donors and the government alike."