The World Health Organisation has said that close to one in seven people in India are at risk of contracting malaria.In a report that should worry public health officials, it says India along with Ethiopia, Pakistan and Indonesia account for 80% of all malaria cases worldwide, but the country allocates the lowest funding for malaria control in the world.
The report based on the data collated by the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) says of the 138 million people who doctors suspected to have malaria in the country , 1.102 million were confirmed cases. Although this is 15% lower than the 1.31 million cases in 2011, it is higher than in 2013 (.88 million) and 2012 (1.06 million). Deaths from malaria have also increased from 519 in 2012 to 562 in 2014.
Public health experts say the spike could be because of a malaria outbreak in Tripura and Odisha. Odisha had the highest prevalence with 395,000 cases, followed by Chhattisgarh with 128,000 cases and Jharkhand with 103,000 cases.
Tripura, with 49,653 cases, reported 96 malaria deaths, the most for any state. Tamil Nadu reported the sharpest fall in malaria cases among all states with 22,171 cases in 2011 and 8,729 cases three years later.
The WHO report notes that India is among the countries that faces the threat of ad vanced drug-resistant strains of malaria owing to unregulated sale of banned medication.Experts in vector-borne infections say the resistance of mosquitoes to insecticides is emerging as a challenge.
“Drug resistance was a problem three years ago, when we relied on a single drug. After incorporating multi-drug therapy in our national programme, resistance is not that big an issue.But we still do around 15 studies every year to study the efficacy of these drugs,“ says Dr G S Sonal, additional director, NVBDCP , who heads the malaria control division. He says, however, that re searchers have observed resistance to at least one insecticide, especially to DDT and pyrethroids, among any disease-spreading insect in most parts of the country .
The report also notes that authorities in India, along those in with Indonesia and Nepal, provide insufficient quantities of antimalarial medicines to public health facilities.
The entire malaria scenario isn't grim, thankfully . The global health body's report lauds India for disease surveillance. It also projects that India and Thailand would achieve a decrease of 50% to 75% in the incidence of malaria by 2016. Considering that WHO made similar estimates in reports in previous years, it's too early to tell if the country will meet this target.