Cabo Verde, also known as Cape Verde, has received official certification from the World Health Organization (WHO) as a malaria-free country, marking a remarkable milestone in global health. This designation makes Cabo Verde the third country in the WHO’s African region to achieve this status, following Mauritius in 1973 and Algeria in 2019.
As of 2021, Africa shoulders the highest malaria burden, contributing to approximately 95% of global malaria cases and 96% of related deaths. The WHO’s announcement of Cabo Verde’s certification on January 12, 2023, underscores the country’s successful efforts in eliminating indigenous malaria transmission.
The WHO’s certification is a formal acknowledgment of a country’s malaria-free status, granted when a nation demonstrates, through rigorous and credible evidence, the interruption of indigenous malaria transmission by Anopheles mosquitoes nationwide for at least three consecutive years. Additionally, the country must showcase the ability to prevent the resurgence of transmission.
Cabo Verde, an archipelago of 10 islands in the Central Atlantic Ocean, faced substantial malaria challenges before achieving this milestone. Before the 1950s, malaria was prevalent across all islands, with severe epidemics occurring in densely populated areas until targeted interventions were implemented. Despite earlier successes in eliminating malaria in 1967 and 1983 through insecticide spraying, subsequent failures in vector control led to the disease’s reemergence. Since the late 1980s, malaria has been confined to two islands, Santiago and Boa Vista, both of which have been malaria-free since 2017.
The WHO praised Cabo Verde’s strategic approach, citing the targeted use of insecticide spraying and successful outbreak management in 2017, which turned challenges into opportunities for improvement. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphasized the significance of Cabo Verde’s achievement, attributing it to strategic public health planning, collaboration, and sustained efforts to protect and promote health.
Cabo Verde’s Prime Minister, Ulisses Correia e Silva, acknowledged the impact of the certification on the country’s external image, benefiting tourism and enhancing overall recognition. He highlighted the recognition of Cabo Verde’s health system’s resilience and the challenges overcome in attaining this significant milestone.