Bolivia: On the way towards eliminating malaria


A girl from Riberalta receives antimalarial treatment.
(Photo: UNDP/Bolivia)

“In the past, contracting malaria was quite common. I got the disease myself, and managed to recover, but people often died from these chills,” said Edwin Moreno Saravia, of the town of Riberalta in Northern Bolivia.

But no deaths have been reported in the past five years and the incidence of the disease has been reduced significantly, according to Saravia, who heads the local health committee.

Highlights

  • No deaths from the disease have been reported for the past five years in the region.
  • The country has already achieved the MDG target of 2 per thousand people infected, and hopes to eradicate malaria by 2020.
  • The project covers 36 municipalities that account for more than 85 percent of malaria cases at national level.

The reduction in malaria is due in part to Malaria-Free Bolivia project geared towards reducing the mortality rate associated with the disease.  It covers 36 municipalities of the Amazon basin that account for more than 85 percent of malaria cases at the national level and for 100 percent of cases of plasmodium falsiparum - the most dangerous form of malaria.  

The strategy is to promote awareness, improve prevention and provide specific and timely treatment for the population of the region (close to 600,000 people), extending coverage to other areas at a later stage.

The UNDP project has been running since 2010 with financial support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

Physicians going from door to door in the communities help control the disease and provide early diagnosis and treatment. In addition, classes are constantly provided to explain the various forms of prevention and symptoms so that villagers receive prompt medical attention if they contract the disease.

As part of the preemptive measures, people are advised to stay home between 6pm and 10pm --  the times that malaria-carrying mosquitoes come out and transmit the disease. Mosquito nets and interior rooms have to be sprayed with insecticide.

"The villagers now use mosquito nets when they sleep and spray themselves with the appropriate product when they commute", said Fabricio Asin, a health practitioner.

Jorge Cuba Carrillo, of the Ministry of Health in Riberalta, said that “21,202 blood samples were taken in 2013, of which 1,393 proved positive for plasmodium vivax, the benign version of the disease, and 9 for plasmodium falsiparum. Our first objective is to eliminate the deadly strain of the disease by 2015, and we hope to eradicate malaria by 2020.”

Although the country has already achieved the Millennium Development Goal on malaria - namely 2 per thousand people infected - the aim is to eliminate the disease.

In addition to prevention and treatment, a wider initiative aims at cleaning the lakes conducive of the disease, and at coordinating programs for diagnosis and treatment during the chestnut harvest in the malaria endemic region.