MANILA, Philippines — Nineteen provinces are set to be declared free from malaria, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
“Nineteen provinces, having reached the malaria elimination phase with zero local transmission, are waiting to be assessed and declared malaria-free,” the DOH said.
The geographic extent of malaria in the country is “shrinking,” the agency said.
The DOH had earlier declared 60 provinces free from malaria.
At the end of last year, only 126 barangays in two provinces recorded local malaria transmission.
The Philippines has significantly reduced the incidence of the mosquito-born disease by 87 percent from 48,569 in 2003 to 6,120 cases in 2020, the DOH noted during the celebration of World Malaria Day on Sunday.
The country also reported a 98 percent reduction in the number of deaths due to malaria, from 162 in 2003 to three last year.
Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that the Western Pacific region had an estimated 1.7 million cases in 2019 with a 52 percent reduction in the number of deaths in about two decades.
The DOH said the WHO aims to declare the Philippines malaria-free by 2030.
To achieve this status, the WHO said countries should have achieved at least three consecutive years of “zero indigenous cases.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted the delivery of services under our malaria elimination program, but this will not deter us from our vision of a malaria-free country,” DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
Malaria is spread by the female Anopheles mosquito that breeds in rivers and lakes. It can also be transmitted through blood transfusion and mother to child before or during birth.
Symptoms usually start nine to 14 days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito or up to several months in some cases.