Colombia’s Minister of Health and Social Protection Juan Pablo Uribe Restrepo, representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) joined the governors of the Chocó and Nariño departments in signing a pact on Monday in which they are committed to implementing the so-called Regional Initiative for the Elimination of the Malaria.

According to the Minister, in order to develop a strategy that works closely with local government, 12 municipalities along the Colombian Pacific were identified as having 60% of the total malaria cases in the country (60,000) – and predominately Afro-Colombian communities with limited access to clean water and sanitation. The towns and cities chosen for the pilot project are Atrato, Bagadó, Juradó, Acandí, Medio Atrato, Cloró, Quibdó, Unguía, Riosucio, and Rio Quito, in Chocó; Buenaventura (Valle del Cauca), and Tumaco (Nariño).

Already in 2019, some 13,000 cases of malaria have been reported across the country.

The implementation of the strategy against the mosquito-borne disease has become a public health priority as malaria is closely associated with vulnerable communities and a virus that can be fatal when it infects infants and seniors. “With the support of the IDB, PAHO and other global foundations, we are bringing the malaria elimination program to the country, which has already been tested in other nations and which will allow us to draw up a comprehensive plan to eradicate this disease,” said Uribe Restrepo. The Health Ministry plans to implement a similar program in the Colombian Orinoquía and Amazon regions, near the Venezuelan border, where malaria is prevalent.

The so-called Pact for the Elimination of Malaria has a budget of US$10 million of which US$3 million was raised by international non-profits and destined for the training of community health professionals in disease detection and prevention. “The country has made important progress in the fight against malaria, but with this program, we can do much more and break the cycle, which is associated with inequality and poverty,” explained the Minister.

For his part, Ramiro López Ghio, operations chief of the IDB, acknowledged the important effort Colombia is making in fighting the disease and expressed confidence that with the pact greater social equality and development indices can be achieved. In turn, Wilmer Marquiño, from PAHO, reiterated the organization’s support for promoting the initiative, as they have done in other countries that have successfully eliminated the disease, such as Paraguay and El Salvador.