In a remarkable public health achievement, Sri Lanka was today certified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on having eliminated malaria, a life-threatening disease which long affected the island country.“Sri Lanka’s achievement is truly remarkable. In the mid-20th century it was among the most malaria-affected countries, but now it is malaria-free. This is testament to the courage and vision of its leaders, and signifies the great leaps that can be made when targeted action is taken. It also demonstrates the importance of grass-roots community engagement and a whole-of-society approach when it comes to making dramatic public health gains,” WHO Regional Director, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said. The change in strategy was unorthodox, but highly effective. Mobile malaria clinics in high transmission areas meant that prompt and effective treatment could reduce the parasite reservoir and the possibility of further transmission. Effective surveillance, community engagement and health education, meanwhile, enhanced the ability of authorities to respond, and mobilized popular support for the campaign. The adaptation/ flexibility of strategies and support from key partners such as WHO and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria fast-tracked success. By 2006, the country recorded less than 1 000 cases of malaria per year, and since October 2012, the indigenous cases were down to zero. For the past three-and-a-half years, no locally transmitted cases have been recorded.To maintain elimination and ensure the parasite is not reintroduced to the country, the anti-malaria campaign is working closely with local authorities and international partners to maintain surveillance and response capacity and to screen high-risk populations entering the country. Sri Lanka is the second country in the WHO South-East Asia Region to eliminate malaria after Maldives. The announcement of Sri Lanka’s victory over malaria was made at the WHO South-East Asia Region’s annual Regional Committee meeting in the presence of health ministers and senior health officials from all 11 Member States.The Regional Director said WHO will continue to support the efforts of Sri Lanka’s health authorities as they relate to malaria, as well as the country’s wider public health mission. This outstanding achievement should be a springboard to further public health gains in the country and the South-East Asia Region as a whole. Sri Lanka’s road to elimination was tough, and demanded well-calibrated, responsive policies. After malaria cases soared in the 1970s and 80s, in the 1990s the country’s anti-malaria campaign adjusted its strategy to intensively target the parasite in addition to targeting the mosquito.
Lynne Prout and Marla Portfilio display a Positive Space poster.After six years, they are becoming ubiquitous — white rectangular cards with rainbow swirls, and uplifting words written in distinctive font. “Positive Space.”The cards are a show of support for the lesbian, gay, bi, trans, two-spirited, queer and questioning community. This fall, the Positive Space campaign enters its sixth year. Organizers hope it has made the campus a little more accepting since 2004.“Generally speaking, it raises visibility and shows that this is a sector of our community that is welcome here,” said Lynne Prout, manager in the Office of Human Rights and Equity Services.“I would hope that when students in particular see (the cards), they feel empowered.”About 500 members of the Brock community have participated in the program since 2004, displaying a Positive Space card or button upon completion. Staff and students take a two-hour workshop that first clarifies the definitions of terms such as two-spirited, queer and transgender. Participants are guided through individual and group activities that challenge them to see life through someone else’s eyes. It also suggests how they can promote a more accepting environment.Once the workshop is completed, participants are given cards to display in their rooms or workstations. The cards act as a beacon for those looking for assistance or a friendly face. But more than that, they are a symbol of welcoming, especially for newer students, Prout said.“Fairly early on, I got an email from an incoming student who saw the posters,” she said. “He said, ‘I’m so excited to see that this is a place where I’m welcome. My high school wasn’t like that.’”A graduate student first started the program as a social justice masters thesis. Since then, there have been about 75 workshops. Three sessions are planned between now and November.Volunteers facilitate sessions and sitting on the steering committee. Attendees are often allies of the lesbian, gay, bi, trans, two-spirited, queer and questioning community who want to become more comfortable and knowledgeable, Prout said. Some join to learn to better support their friends.Not everyone who joins has to display a card or button, said Marla Portfilio, human rights and equity officer in the Office of Human Rights and Equity Services.“You don’t have to make that level of commitment,” she said. “You can just come for the information.”Upcoming Positive Space sessions:Monday, Sept. 27: 2 to 4 p.m.Wednesday, Oct. 13: 4 to 6 p.m.Tuesday, Nov. 23: 5 to 7 p.m.To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org