Malaria Strains Latin America

A disease considered controlled in the nineties has became a serious problem for countries like Venezuela, Peru and Colombia

Malaria cases dramatically rose since the beginning of the new millenium in Latin America. According to last reports from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Colombia registers the highest increases with a 91.6%. In what looks like an Andean epidemic, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru follow Colombia at the top of the ranking.

Specialists warn on the potential spread of cases in those countries if not immediate policies are implemented. For instance, Colombia had 193,542 cases in 2002, but 5,027,427 are at serious risk of becoming infected at country's rural areas.

An almost eradicated disease in the 1990's, malaria has come back as major worrying for health authorities of the Andean countries. The aggravation of the social situation after the collapse of the neo-liberal programs, the continuos migration of farmers looking for jobs at the illegal plantations, environmental changes are some of the reasons for this reality.

In some Colombian States over one third of the population are at risk of catching malaria. An official internal report of the Ministry of Social Care estimates in 24 million, the number of people that could die of malaria in Colombia.

In Peru, malaria cases went up 14% between 2001 and 2002; Ecuador's figures are slightly better: 10.5% during the same period of time. Venezuela is an special case: one of the largest economies of the region thanks to the exports of oil faces an increasing in malaria rate of 32.7% according to PAHO.

Brazil is an exception to the rule. Traditionally the most affected country, made an extraordinary progress on this field turning back its figures. Between 2001 and 2002, malaria cases decreased in a 36%.

Malaria can be cured, nowadays. However, mistreatment and lack of controls can make this ancestral disease mortal among the impoverished rural population. Actually, national Governments count with eradication programs financed by international institutions, but the money does not reach its destiny for several well-known reasons.

Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina

Image: Malaria's world map. Latin America is still one of the most affected areas.