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70% Indians are prone to malaria infection

December 22, 2011

Over 70% of India’s population, or 100.41 crore face the risk of malaria infection.

Around 31 crore, however, face the “highest risk” of getting infected by the vector-borne disease.

According to the World Malaria report 2011, released by the World Health Organization (WHO), India has over 10 crore suspected malaria cases, but only 15.9 lakh could be confirmed last year.

Of the confirmed cases, 8.3 lakh people were infected by plasmodium falciparum, while 7.6 lakh were infected with Plasmodium Vivax. Malaria mortality rates have fallen by more than 25% globally.

There were an estimated 6 55, 000 malaria deaths in 2010, which is 36,000 lower than the previous year. However, India recorded 1, 023 malaria deaths.

The report says in 2010, there were an estimated 216 million cases of malaria in 106 endemic countries and territories.

Globally, 86% of the victims were children under five years. Drug resistance is a major concern globally. Plasmodium falciparum resistance to artemisinins, which was confirmed on the Cambodia-Thailand border in 2009, is suspected in parts of Myanmar and Vietnam. Since 2008, containment activities have been going on to limit the spread of artemisinin-resistant parasites.

Last year, the WHO Global Plan for Artemisinin Resistance Containment (GPARC) recommended that all countries ban the marketing of oral artemisinin-based monotherapies, one of the major factors fostering the emergence of drug resistance.

Despite a World Health Assembly resolution addressing the issue, 25 countries still allow the marketing of oral artemisinin-based monotherapies and 28 pharmaceutical companies continue to market these products (down from 39 last year). “Most of the countries that still allow marketing are located in the African Region and most of the manufacturers are in India,” the report says.

Shortage of funds to fight the disease globally is a major concern. International funds for malaria control reached $1.7 billion in 2010 and $2 billion this year, but remained significantly below the $5-$6 billion that is needed annually to achieve global malaria targets.

Despite increased support from the U K, malaria funding may slightly decrease in 2012 and 2013, and will likely drop further to an annual $1.5 billion by 2015.

“We are making significant progress in battling malaria. Coverage of at-risk populations with prevention and control measures increased last year, and resulted in a further decline in estimated malaria cases and deaths,” says Dr Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO. “But there are worrisome signs that suggest progress might slow,” she said.

Dr Robert Newman, director of WHO’s global malaria programme, said “We need new donors and endemic countries to join forces and address the vast challenges that lie ahead. Millions of bed nets will need replacement in the coming years and the goal of universal access to diagnostic testing and effective treatment must be realized. We need to act with urgency and resolve to ensure that no one dies from malaria for lack of $5 bed net, $1dollar anti-malarial drug and a 50 cent diagnostic test.”

Categories: Public Health
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