World Malaria Day: India’s Progress To Eliminate The Disease

world malaria day 2017

world malaria day 2017

When the Europeans first landed in India their greatest fear was a disease. A vector borne disease that was quick in its onset and would often kill its victim – Malaria. Till the discovery of Quinine (from the bark of the Cinchona), Malaria was considered fatal. By the mid-1900s numerous other drugs were developed and the number of deaths due to malaria (worldwide) reduced drastically. It is unfortunate, though, that despite the advances in medical science and easy availability of medication, malaria has not yet been eliminated from India.

Far From Eliminating Malaria

Each year, during the summer and monsoon months, water-borne diseases sweep across the country. In recent times, with incidences of dengue and chikungunya wreaking havoc, we seem to have forgotten about malaria but the disease is still the third most common disease in the country. Admittedly things have changed. From about 20 lakh cases reported in 2000, there were 8,81,730 cases of malaria reported across the country in 2013. The next year this rose to 10,70,513 and last year (2016) 10,59,437 cases were reported. 242 people in India died due to the disease in 2016. What started off as a sharp decline in the number of malaria reports has now hit a plateau with no further progress.

India Must Focus Efforts

Outside the African continent, India reports the most number of malaria cases worldwide. Over three fourth of all the malaria cased reported in South East Asia comes from India.

Last year, the Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, J P Nadda, launched the National Framework for Malaria Elimination 2016-2030. The government has committed that concentrated efforts shall be taken to eliminate malaria in the country by 2030. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India is still in the ‘control phase’ and will need to ramp up efforts to reach the ‘pre-elimination phase’. According to WHO standards, pre-elimination can be achieved when the local transmission of malaria is less than 1 case for 1000 people (population). The northern and north eastern states of the country are particularly vulnerable when it comes to malaria and concentrated efforts are required in these parts.

Is Becoming Malaria-Free Possible?

Over the past years the WHO has declared seven nations free of malaria. This means not a single incidence of malaria was reported in these countries for three consecutive years.  The UAE eliminated the disease in 2007, Morocco and Turkmenistan in 2010, Armenia in 2011, Maldives in 2015, and Kyrgyzstan and Sri Lanka in 2016. Admittedly India’s population, varied geography, and vast area make this task far more challenging than any of these countries, but it is certainly not impossible.

Prevention of malaria is far more difficult than curing the disease. The greatest contribution, thus, must come from the people of India themselves. Not allowing mosquitoes to breed, water to stagnate, and garbage is the key to keeping the disease at bay.

Medicines to combat malaria are now quite easily available in every part of the country. Government hospitals and clinics also provide them free of cost to those in need. To look at a complete elimination, though, a highly effective vaccine will be necessary. The WHO has undertaken a trial of a newly developed malaria vaccine in Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi. India could work closely with the WHO and be part of future trials if becoming malaria-free is to become a reality.

Today is World Malaria Day. Let this day be a reminder of the immense progress done and the efforts that we shall have to undertake to rid our country of this disease.


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