A new World Malaria Report has claimed that in India the malaria surveillance mechanism detects a mere 8 per cent of cases, among the lowest in the world. Despite this, India accounts for 6 per cent of all malaria cases reported globally.
The World Malaria Report 2017 says: “Among 55 countries where the burden of malaria was estimated — from either adjustment of the routine data or the transformation of prevalence to incidence — the proportion of estimated cases reported by surveillance systems was lowest in Gabon (8 per cent) and highest in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (84 per cent). Countries with weak malaria surveillance systems include India and Nigeria, two major contributors to the global burden of malaria, with 8 per cent and 16 per cent of cases, respectively, detected by the surveillance system.” India has the highest malaria burden in the world outside sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso and India accounted for 58 per cent of all malaria deaths globally.
According to figures available with the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, till September 2017, 673474 cases of malaria were reported in the country. A total of 84 people died in eight states with West Bengal and Odisha reporting the most casualties at 26 and 25 respectively. Odisha features in the Malaria report too because of the spurt of cases it showed in 2016 – up to 449697 from 436850 the year before. If these figures, as the report notes, constitute a mere 8 per cent of reported cases, then India is sitting on a malaria volcano of more than 80 lakh cases happening annually. A comment from the office of health minister J P Nadda is awaited.
Malaria is a potentially life threatening parasitic disease caused by parasites known as Plasmodium viviax (P.vivax), Plasmodium falciparum (P.falciparum), Plasmodium malariae (P.malariae) and Plasmodium ovale (P.ovale). It is transmitted by the infective bite of Anopheles mosquito. The disease has an incubation period of 10-15 days which means a person may develop symptoms after a fortnight of being bitten by an infected mosquito. Infection by P falciparum is believed to be the most deadly. Between 2014 and 2016, just 15.5 million insecticide treated mosquito nets, regarded as the primary prevention method for malaria were distributed in India.
However India, the report brought out by the World Health Organisation noted, is on track for a 20–40 per cent reduction by 2020.
In his foreword in the report, WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus talks about how from the time when malaria was among the big public health success stories, the overall decline in the global malaria burden has “unquestionably leveled off” and some countries are actually showing reversals in trends. In 2016, 91 countries reported a total of 216 million cases of malaria, an increase of 5 million cases over the previous year. The global tally of malaria deaths reached 445 000 deaths, about the same number reported in 2015.
“A minimum investment of $6.5 billion will be required annually by 2020 in order to meet the 2030 targets of the WHO global malaria strategy. The $2.7 billion invested in 2016 represents less than half of that amount. Of particular concern is that, since 2014, investments in malaria control have, on average, declined in many high-burden countries.,” Dr Tedros wrote.
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