Global malaria funding is being reduced, according to the World Malaria Report released by the World Health Organisation, making it more difficult to control the disease
“The world is still struggling to achieve the high levels of programme coverage that are needed to beat this disease,” said Dr Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme, in a press statement.
According to the report, there were 212 million new cases of malaria and 429 000 deaths around the world in 2015. During the same period India reported about 11 lakh cases and 384 deaths related to malaria, according to the country’s National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme.
But international funding for malaria control in India is drying up. As per the report, the World Bank stopped funding India’s malaria control programme in 2014. Between 2014 and 2015, there was a significant reduction in funding by the Global Fund, an international financing body that supports local activities for disease control.
Despite the huge burden of cases, the incidence of malaria in India is on a decline, as per the report. Malaria incidence in India has dropped by 35% between 2010 and 2015 as per the estimates drawn by the World Health Organisation.
High transmission of Plasmodium Vivax
According to the report, four countries – Ethiopia, India, Indonesia and Pakistan – accounted for 78% of Plasmodium Vivax cases. The malaria parasite is transmitted by female Anopheles mosquitoes, which bite mainly between dusk and dawn. Most malaria infections are caused by two different species of the plasmodium – Vivax or Falciparum. The World Health Organisation report estimates that 49% of all plasmodium vivax malaria cases in world are reported from India. The report also estimates that half of all plasmodium vivax malaria deaths globally are reported from India.
“Yes, vivax cases are higher in India compared to other parts of the world,” Dr AC Dhariwal, director of National Vector Borne Disease Control Program told Scroll.in.
He added that the government is strengthening malaria control activities in urban areas of the country where the transmission of plasmodium vivax is found to be higher.
India aims to eliminate malaria by 2030. Neighbouring Sri Lanka was declared malaria free by World Health Organisation in September.
The World Health Organisation defines elimination as the reduction to zero malaria cases in a defined geographical area. For any region to achieve a malaria-free status like Sri Lanka, it has to pass through four stages: control, pre-elimination, elimination and prevention of reintroduction. India is in the control phase and some states including Punjab and Tamil Nadu are inching closer towards elimination.
However, with severe cuts in international funding and a disproportionately small health budget, India’s fight against malaria will be no less a daunting task.