Eliminating Malaria in Azerbaijan

As of March 29, 2023, the World Health Organization declared the country of Azerbaijan malaria-free. This result comes after a century of efforts to eradicate the disease from the nation using a range of methods and policies. Azerbaijan joins 41 other countries that have eliminated malaria. The elimination of malaria in Azerbaijan can be used as a case study for other nations when it comes to enacting effective policy.

How Was Malaria Eradicated in Azerbaijan?

The government and local authorities implemented a range of policies and innovative solutions to work toward eliminating malaria in Azerbaijan. Three strains of the disease were prevalent in the country in the 20th century, however after a significant interruption to the spread of two of these strains, Plasmodium Vivax remained the only prominent strain of malaria in the country.

Since then, the country has made significant progress toward controlling and measuring this strain of malaria. Some of these policies and methods included:

  • Effective specimen collection
  • Electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance System implementation
  • Extensive public funding and investment in health care facilities and preventative measures

Electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance System (EIDSS)

The Ministry of Health adopted the Electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance System in 2010. The system provides accurate and real-time reporting of infections within the country. The data collected can be measured, analyzed and shared between different agencies for the most effective targeting and control of diseases, including malaria. The platform is an open-source system that allows medical clinics and centers for hygiene and epidemiology to input live data and react accordingly.

The use of this electronic data system vastly improved the recording and notification of the prevalence of malaria in the country. Traditional paper methods in 2010 had a timeliness notification rate for dangerous diseases of 37% until this increased to 98% once the government established EIDSS. The accuracy and completeness of data were also improved after the development of EIDSS. 

The Impact of Malaria Reduction on Poverty

Eliminating malaria in Azerbaijan creates a ripple effect across all areas of society, improving individual lives dynamically.

Initially, reducing malaria transmission greatly improves the health of citizens and health outcomes for the region as a whole, such as increasing life expectancy. On the other hand, research indicates that reducing malaria has impacts beyond health. 

Reducing malaria mortality creates better opportunities for people. With better health and less disease transmission, individuals will see less expenditure on anti-malaria drugs, treatment, funeral expenses and other associated costs. Dealing with malaria is expensive and costs the continent of Africa $12 billion in GDP per year, significantly slowing down economic growth. With a larger workforce unaffected by malaria, a country’s overall productivity and GDP can grow. For children especially, better health can improve school attendance and education, providing them with better career opportunities in the future that may have been hindered if they were exposed to the disease. 

On the other hand, research also considers the monetary factors associated with effective malaria eradication and current aid levels are not deemed to be sufficient to eliminate malaria and reverse the disease-poverty trap. The disease-poverty trap is the concept that without sufficient investment, poorer communities lack the resources to be able to overcome dangerous diseases and get locked in a cycle of sickness and poverty.

The Economy and Malaria

While eliminating malaria in Azerbaijan reinforces that it is possible to wipe out the disease, there is also a notable intersection between malaria eradication and economic prosperity.

Many have concluded that without the economic advantages that were available to the Azerbaijan government, it is uncertain whether the country would have eradicated the disease so soon. The country’s Parliamentary Health Committee commits almost $700,000 annually to be put toward malaria prevention activities. These investments included the Electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance System and vast improvements in medical centers, antiviral drugs and laboratories.

Without sufficient aid and investment, it may be harder for less developed countries that suffer from malaria outbreaks to adequately fight the disease. An interview between Dr. Keith Carter and the WHO concluded that economic prosperity aided in preventing malaria transmission in Azerbaijan.

With adequate monetary investment and aid intervention, it is possible to eliminate malaria and subsequently pull thousands of people out of the disease-poverty trap. By providing the correct resources and investing in effective malaria prevention methods, malaria can be eradicated across the globe, as demonstrated in the case of eliminating malaria in Azerbaijan.

Ariana Mortazavi
Photo: Flickr

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