India to eliminate malaria by 2027
India is set to embark on an ambitious plan to eliminate malaria by 2027, 3 years before the WHO's (World Health Organization) global target of 2030. The National Framework for Malaria Elimination is already in final stages of planning and is expected to be launched by the government on 11 Feb'16. The framework divides the states into 3 categories and tackles low-incidence states first.
What is malaria?
Malaria is a vector-borne disease caused by the Plasmodium parasite which spreads through the bite of the female Anopheles mosquitoes. Malaria affected 214 million people and killed 4,38,000 people in 2015. Fever, chills, headache, vomiting, etc. are some of the symptoms of malaria. According to WHO, 3.2 billion people or half of the world population is vulnerable to this life threatening disease.
Previous national efforts against malaria
The National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) was launched in India in 2003-04 in partnership with the IMA (Indian Medical Association) to control vector-borne diseases including malaria and eradicate them.
Reasons for failure to control malaria
According to the WHO, India has made progress in reducing the number of malaria cases by more than half between 2000-13. However, shortage of medicines, equipment, data-manipulation, inadequate staff, and awareness campaigns makes malaria difficult to control in India. The north-eastern states, tribal belts of central India, etc., which face internal conflicts and have poor access to healthcare account for the majority of cases.
Lack of data affects actions
While according to the Government of India, less than 300 people died due to malaria in 2015, a study in The Lancet placed the number at around 50,000. The report suggested that thousands died even without an accurate diagnosis of the disease. This eventually affected the malaria control program severely as the requirement of drugs and other facilities were not correctly estimated.
Malaria's annual cost: $2 billion
Malaria costs $2 billion to the country in treatment costs and productivity losses annually and severely impacts the poor and rural population who do not have access to quality healthcare.
Phase-wise malaria elimination
Under the National Framework for Malaria Elimination, the states will be divided into 3 categories based on the Annual Parasite Incidence (API), the annual number of cases per 1000 people. Phase-I covers states with API less than 1, both at state and district level. Phase-II covers states with API of 1 at state level but more than 1 in districts. Phase-III covers remaining states.
The new malaria framework
To combat the menace of malaria, ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activists) will be provided with malaria diagnosis kits, a large number of mosquito nets will be distributed among vulnerable populations, and other such measures will be undertaken by the government.