Progress made against Malaria in Venezuela - Doctors of the World

Progress made against Malaria in Venezuela


Supported entomological surveillance and vector control workshops in 2021-2023


Mosquito nets distributed in 2021-2023


Key stakeholders updated in surveillance, prevention and control in 2021-2023

A costly disease


The state of Sucre in Venezuela is home to the country’s main sardine fishing port and, in general, offers great potential for agriculture, tourism and oil and gas industries, but malaria has undermined a series of key socio-economic factors that are essential for its inhabitants. In recent years, cases of malaria have resulted in school absenteeism of more than 100,000 hours, and in terms of working hours, absenteeism has resulted in a loss of approximately 400,000 hours per year for the state and families.  

Since 2021, and thanks to funding from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), Médicos del Mundo/Doctors of the World Spain has worked in Sucre and is providing direct support to the State Directorate of Environmental Health to strengthen its capacities to combat malaria.  

What actions have been taken? From a global perspective, technical and logistical support has been provided in epidemiological surveillance activities (detection, diagnosis and treatment), promotion of malaria prevention, entomological surveillance and vector control.


Zero Malaria 


The fight against malaria in Venezuela has ensured that from 2021 until today, no deaths have been recorded in Sucre, the second state in the country with the highest prevalence of malaria. In addition, malaria cases have been reduced by 60%, data that shows success in this battle against the deadly disease.  

Although the majority of cases worldwide are recorded in Africa, the Latin American region experienced a significant rebound in malaria cases in 2018, with Venezuela among the most affected countries. This is how Elia Sánchez, a doctor in Environmental Health in the state of Sucre, remembers it, who details that malaria here has had a very varied epidemiology. “We have gone from 77,000 cases in 2018 to reducing cases by 89.7% in these five years,” she says. 

Among the problems mentioned by this expert, there is “abandonment in the spaces where the phenomenon of malaria transmission occurred.” Therefore, the first strategy was to diversify the tasks and to go especially to the most remote places. “At first it was difficult because we didn’t have all the medicines we needed. But we have grown and this has also been strengthened with the support of Doctors of the World Spain,” she emphasizes.

Thanks to the financial support of the EU Humanitarian Aid, Doctors of the World Spain has been able to work on entomological surveillance. “Entomological surveillance is a component that forms the basis of all malaria surveillance programs aimed at eliminating it,” explains Melfrán Herrera, entomologist and malaria technician at Doctors of the World Spain in Venezuela. 

Having knowledge of which vectors are in the area is essential to be able to know how it behaves, what are the places where it breeds, what time the mosquito bites, etc.,” details the specialist. 

Malaria is the work of the single-celled Plasmodium parasites, with Plasmodium falciparum being the one that causes more severe forms of malaria. It spreads among people through mosquito bites: they first invade the liver and then the red blood cells. The first symptoms are generic and flu-like fever, headaches, sweating and chills, and vomiting

Elizabeth Parejo, a resident of Sucre, suffered from malaria eight times and remembers the symptoms well. “Since I already know him by the symptoms, I know it’s him,” she says before adding: “A few years ago the outpatient clinics in Cumaná were overwhelmed, everywhere you went the problem was malaria. Right now malaria has let its guard down, it really doesn’t look like it used to.” 

Another neighbor affected by the disease, José Rodríguez, also recognizes that thanks to the health personnel of Doctors of the World Spain, “who goes house to house“, malaria has decreased. “They send us directly to the malaria clinic to provide the treatment and quell the malaria, thus putting an end to the disease,” he points out.

Education, a weapon to fight the disease


One of the fundamental aspects in the fight against this potentially fatal disease is education among children. Raiza Montilla, health promoter of Doctors of the World Spain in Venezuela, reports that they use audiovisual tools such as videos to explain in an “animated, concrete, precise and illustrated” way how this disease works. After the sessions with the children, they verify that the mosquito and the parasite are identified as the culprit of this disease. A simple and educational way to raise awareness among the little ones against the disease. 



Sabina Rodríguez/ Médicos del Mundo