The World Malaria Report, recently released, highlights India’s remarkable achievements in the fight against malaria, defying global trends. The report reveals a significant decline in both cases and deaths due to the mosquito-borne infection in India. In 2022, the country recorded an estimated 33.8 lakh cases and 5,511 deaths, marking a 30% reduction in malaria incidence and a 34% decline in mortality compared to the previous year.
India’s Downward Trend Amid Global Challenges
While the world experienced a surge in malaria cases after a decade of stability, India’s success story stands out. Globally, there were 5 million additional malaria cases in 2022, bringing the total to 249 million, with 608,000 reported deaths. In contrast, India’s downward trend reflects its commitment to providing primary healthcare to remote areas, enhanced surveillance supported by digital data, and effective management of extreme weather events such as cyclones.
Factors Behind India’s Success
Experts attribute India’s success to various factors, including:
- Primary Healthcare Focus: A dedicated focus on providing primary healthcare to even the remotest areas has played a crucial role.
- Digital Surveillance: Enhanced surveillance backed by digital data has enabled quicker response times and targeted interventions.
- Extreme Weather Management: Improved handling of extreme weather events, particularly cyclones, has reduced incidences of malaria in affected regions.
- Preventive Practices: Adoption of good preventive practices, effective tools to control mosquito populations, and the use of point-of-care tests for quick diagnosis have contributed to the decline in cases and deaths.
- Urbanization Impact: Urbanization has reduced the breeding grounds for mosquitoes that transmit malaria, further decreasing its incidence.
Climate Change and Malaria
The report emphasizes the interplay between climate change and malaria. Both the malaria parasite and mosquitoes are highly sensitive to temperature, humidity, and rainfall. Experts express concerns about the potential expansion of malaria due to climate change, as it may increase the geographical spread of the disease and hinder access to healthcare facilities.
Need for Improved Surveillance
With fewer reported cases, intensified efforts are needed for surveillance to identify and treat scattered cases effectively. Real-time digital data is considered essential to help local administrations plan interventions efficiently.
While India celebrates its achievements, challenges persist. Issues such as drug resistance, insecticide resistance, and gene deletions in parasites pose biological threats. Vivax malaria, accounting for over 40% of cases in India, presents a unique challenge due to its recurrent nature and the difficulty in completing the 14-day therapy.
Dr. Neena Valecha emphasizes the importance of strengthening surveillance, tailoring interventions at the sub-national level, updating policies, and adopting new tools to achieve the malaria elimination target by 2030.
As India navigates these challenges, its success in the face of global adversities provides valuable lessons for the ongoing global fight against malaria.
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