COLOMBO: The World Health Organization has certified Sri Lanka free of malaria, the second country in the region to earn the distinction after the Maldives, the health ministry said Tuesday.
The UN agency had sent teams to Sri Lanka in the past three years to evaluate its efforts to ensure there was not a single indigenous malaria case since 2012, the ministry said in a statement.
"Minister Rajitha Senaratne was presented today with a certificate confirming Sri Lanka's malaria-free status by the WHO," the statement said adding that the island had set up a unit to eradicate the mosquito-borne disease.
The announcement came as Colombo hosted a meeting of the WHO regional committee for South East Asia.
Sri Lanka's state-run Anti-Malaria Campaign said 180 cases of malaria were detected in the country in the past three years, but all the victims had contracted the disease abroad.
"Sri Lanka has now completed three consecutive years without indigenous malaria, an achievement seen never before," the campaign said.
There had been no deaths due to indigenous malaria since 2007.
WHO regional director Poonam Khetrapal Singh said Sri Lanka's achievement was "truly remarkable."
"In the mid-20th century it was among the most malaria-affected countries, but now it is malaria-free," she said in a separate statement.
"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."
However, the country is battling another mosquito-transmitted disease, dengue fever, with 37,500 cases reported in the first eight months of this year. At least 52 of them succumbed to the disease, according to official figures.
Neighbouring Maldives which has a population of about 340,000, was declared malaria-free in December.