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Swaziland leading the battle against malaria in Africa
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By the end of next year, if all goes well, Swaziland will be the first country in mainland Sub-Saharan Africa to eliminate this mosquito-borne illness from its borders. - photo by Daniel Lombardi
The small southern African Kingdom of Swaziland is leading the way in the global fight against malaria.

By the end of next year, if all goes well, Swaziland will be the first country in mainland Sub-Saharan Africa to eliminate the mosquito-borne illness from its borders, according to a press release from University of California San Franciscos Global Health Group. The group pointed out that last year Swaziland suffered 603 malaria cases, which is a 99 percent drop since 2000.

Swazilands success is the latest in a string of positive malaria data that is leading many experts to believe the disease could be wiped out globally in the next few decades. According to the World Health Organizations 2014 World Malaria Report, 80 percent of the people in southern Africa are now living in malaria-free areas. Malaria was never present in Lesotho, and in the past 15 years Botswana, Namibia and South Africa have reduced malaria by 75 percent.

Last month, the decline was noted by the UN News Center as meeting the Millennium Development Goal to reduce the malaria burden.

The worlds success in rolling back malaria shows just what can be achieved with the right kind of determination and partnerships, said Mogens Lykketoft, president of the UN General Assembly. He predicted that with international support malaria could be eliminated worldwide by 2030.

Director of Malaria No More James Whiting likened the elimination of malaria to our generations moon landing in an op-ed for The Huffington Post. Our ambition to eradicate malaria will not only save countless lives, it will also make a significant contribution to creating a more prosperous and secure world for us all. As malaria is defeated, trillions of dollars would be created in economic output.

Just a century ago malaria was endemic to almost every country on Earth and killed millions of people every year. Death has not been the only effect of malaria, explained Herve Verhoosel, a representative of the Roll Back Malaria partnership. In Africa, up to 10 million school days are lost annually with pupils and teachers sick, and it has been estimated that the continent loses $12 billion in lost productivity every year due to malaria, he wrote in a recent opinion piece for The National.

Despite the good news from Swaziland and Southern Africa, the rest of the continent is not faring nearly as well. In Central and West Africa, malaria death rates have decreased far less, if at all. In the remote areas of these far more tropical countries malaria remains a deadly force. Nine out of 10 malaria deaths worldwide occur in Africa where about 528,000 died of the disease in 2014.

To officially certify malaria has been eliminated from Swaziland the country must maintain zero cases for three years and then pass an audit by the World Health Organization. Even once elimination is achieved the threat of imported cases from neighboring Mozambique will persist for years.

When youve got rid of it, youve got to keep your malaria control program active and be very vigilant, Director of the Global Health Group Richard Feachem told The Associated Press.