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WHO: Malaria Deaths, Cases Plunge in Latin America

FILE - A Kayapo girl from Gorotire tribe with symptoms of Malaria fever receives medical attention on the sixth day of a medical expedition of the "Expedicionarios da Saude" (Brazilian Health Expeditions) in Kikretum community in Sao Felix, northern Brazi

Malaria deaths and cases across Latin America have plunged in recent years, with Brazil, Honduras and Paraguay, showing most progress in combating the parasitic mosquito-born disease, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has said.

Across the Americas, increased prevention and control of malaria has led to a nearly 70 percent drop in cases, from 1.2 million in 2000 to 375,000 in 2014.

Malaria deaths have dropped by nearly 80 percent over the same period, with 89 deaths reported in the region last year, according to latest figures from PAHO, the regional arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Americas.

"The region of the Americas has demonstrated capacity to reduce malaria significantly," Marcos Espinal, head of PAHO/WHO's communicable diseases department, said in a statement late on Thursday.

Brazil program praised

PAHO praised Brazil's national malaria prevention program.

Set up in 2003, nearly 14,000 health workers in rural and urban areas raise awareness among local communities about how to detect and prevent malaria and ensure mosquito nets are properly set up and used.

Worldwide insecticide-treated bed nets have been credited with spurring big drops in malaria deaths and are considered a central weapon in the global fight against malaria.

Such control and prevention measures, and to a lesser extent indoor spraying, have led to a 60 percent decline in malaria mortality rates worldwide since 2000, according to WHO.

Africa region

Yet despite enormous progress over the last 15 years, around 438,000 people worldwide died from malaria last year, with sub-Saharan Africa accounting for 91 percent of those deaths, particularly among young children, WHO figures show.

The United Nations aims to cut the numbers of new malaria cases and deaths by a further 90 percent by 2030.

A September report by WHO and the U.N. children's agency UNICEF said that annual funding for the antimalaria campaign will need to triple, from $2.7 billion now to $8.7 billion in 2030, to meet that goal.

Last month, WHO experts said the world's first malaria vaccine was promising but should be used on a pilot basis before any wide-scale use, given its limited efficacy.

The decision is likely to delay a possible broad roll-out of the antimalarial vaccine shot for between three and five years.