OZY: This Small Island Paradise Is Showing Africa How to Beat Malaria

Malaria remains a tenacious disease. Not in Sao Tome. 

 People enjoy a New Year’s day swim in São Tomé city on Jan. 1, 2018. Tourists to São Tomé and Principe, a scattering of islands off the coast of western equatorial Africa that once served the slave and sugar trades of Portuguese colonial rulers, are rare.  SOURCE  RUTH MCDOWALL/AFP/GETTY

People enjoy a New Year’s day swim in São Tomé city on Jan. 1, 2018. Tourists to São Tomé and Principe, a scattering of islands off the coast of western equatorial Africa that once served the slave and sugar trades of Portuguese colonial rulers, are rare.

SOURCE RUTH MCDOWALL/AFP/GETTY

This story first appeared on OZY.

Hamilton Nascimento remembers missing months of school as a child when he repeatedly got sick with malaria. It used to be an unavoidable part of life in São Tomé and Príncipe, a nation of two tiny islands in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, where Nascimento grew up. But not anymore.

“Most people in São Tomé knew someone who died from malaria, but now we haven’t had a death in years,” says Nascimento, who leads the government’s anti-malaria office and has helped steer the islands through a dramatic turnaround.

São Tomé and Príncipe is best known for stunning beaches, Galapagos-caliber birdwatching and historic coffee plantations. But in recent years, the maritime nation has acquired a new reputation as one of Africa’s most successful countries in fighting malaria, a disease that kills more than 400,000 people across the continent every year. According to the World Health Organization:

SINCE 2014, THE NATION OF SÃO TOMÉ AND PRINCIPE HAS HAD ZERO MALARIA DEATHS, MAKING IT THE ONLY COUNTRY IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA TO MAINTAIN THAT ACHIEVEMENT FOR SEVERAL CONSECUTIVE YEARS.

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