The Nothing But Nets team recently traveled to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which together comprise the island of Hispaniola – the last island in the Caribbean with ongoing malaria transmission. This trip provided an opportunity to see the incredible work being done on the ground by the National Malaria Control Programs in these two countries, with the support of our partners at the United Nations and in the U.S. Government.
Despite facing numerous political and infrastructure challenges, along with recurring natural disasters, both countries have made remarkable progress in the fight to eliminate malaria and to combat other mosquito-transmitted diseases. Both countries are making a strong push towards malaria elimination by 2020, with the assistance of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), among other partners.
In Haiti, we witnessed how with the U.S. support, the country has greatly increased its laboratory and diagnostic capacity, ensuring better surveillance of the disease and increased access to timely diagnosis and treatment for at-risk patients. In the Dominican Republic, we learned how support from the Global Fund and other partners has enabled the country to reduce its case load to less than 755 per year, with nearly zero annual malaria deaths.
Moreover, we had the chance to see an impressive cross-border collaboration project taking place in the north of the island, with the support of the Malaria Zero alliance. We travelled to the border towns of Ouanaminthe and Dajabon where we followed malaria surveillance officers and learned how they collaborate and share accurate, up-to-date information on cross-border transmission, which will be essential to ensuring malaria is eliminated from the island.
While our trip demonstrated the exciting potential for malaria elimination in the Caribbean, it also underscored that the gains made against malaria in the region are very fragile. When countries such as Haiti and the DR are approaching elimination, there is no more crucial time to continue investing the necessary resources to identify and treat every single case. Unfortunately, some countries tend to lose focus on this disease once the burden is reduced, leading to dramatic resurgences in malaria cases and deaths.
These trends are not unique to Latin America and the Caribbean. In the United States, we have seen calls from the White House for a decrease in overall malaria funding, citing progress against the disease as a justification for spending cuts. History shows us that this approach would only lead to increased cases and more deaths, effectively wiping out many of the gains made in the past 15 years.
To help ensure that the U.S. continues to make the fight against malaria a priority, you can take action today by urging your members of Congress not to cut funding for lifesaving programs run by the President’s Malaria Initiative, the Global Fund, and the United Nations.
To see more pictures from our trip to the Carribean, please view the Facebook album here.