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Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Print version ISSN 0042-9686

Bull World Health Organ vol.79 n.12 Genebra Jan. 2001 


Brazilian Amazon nearly halves malaria cases in a year



The Brazilian government announced in mid-September a major victory over malaria in a part of the country that accounts for 99.7% of Brazil's malaria cases and about half of the cases reported throughout Latin America. Over the first eight months of this year 237 000 malaria cases were reported in Brazil's Amazon region — a 43% drop compared with the 420 000 reported for the same period last year. Throughout the last decade Brazil recorded an average of about 500 000 cases a year.

One likely explanation for the drop in the Amazon region's malaria cases, according to Brazilian health ministry official Dr José Lázaro de Brito Ladislau, coordinator of the region's malaria control programme, is the programme's emphasis on decentralization. "Efforts to control the disease are now managed locally — in the regions and states, and on down to local municipal authorities and local health workers." Ladislau, who works in the ministry's national health foundation unit (FUNASA), adds: "We are also expanding our network of surveillance, diagnosis and treatment, which means that malaria cases are detected faster and we can more rapidly break the chain of transmission of the infection."

Another possible reason for the region's successful struggle against malaria is the government's decision to give top priority to battling the disease and to invest the necessary funds in the fight. This year it tripled its annual spending on Brazil's national disease control efforts in the Amazon region, which now runs at US$ 54 million.

Dr Carlos Catão Prates Loiola, a Pan American Health Organization consultant in Brazil, commented to the Bulletin: "In practice, what we are seeing is both an increase in resources and an increase in the mobilization and competence of state and local staff. But there is no doubt that the extra health ministry funding was critical."

Luisa Massarani, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil