Mosquito menace

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has marked World Malaria Day by calling for greater investment in the fight against malaria.

Investing more in preventing malaria will not only save human lives but also reduce the economic burden that malaria-related fatalities impose on individuals, families and governments.

There were an estimated 207 million cases of malaria globally in 2012 and an estimated 627, 000 malaria-related fatalities. Sub-Saharan Africa is the worst hit; around 90 per cent of all malaria deaths occurred here. Poor communities world-wide are more vulnerable to the disease as are kids below the age of 5 years. An estimated 482,000 children under five years of age died due to malaria in 2012. Every one of these deaths was unnecessary as malaria is a treatable and preventable disease.

WHO’s battle against malaria has several achievements to its credit. Between 2000 and 2012, the incidence of malaria globally fell by 25 per cent. This was made possible by a stepping up of interventions whether to prevent or treat this disease. Preventing malaria is not expensive. Use of insecticide treated mosquito nets has proved a potent means of keeping mosquitoes away. A net is not expensive. Still, it is an expenditure that many in the world’s poorest countries cannot afford. This makes it imperative that funding be stepped up. Although funding for interventions has grown over the years, WHO officials say it is still not enough. Under funding is biting into the battle against malaria.

Malaria is of particular concern to India as 90 per cent of its population lives in malaria-prone regions. Many of the areas worst-afflicted by malaria are forested and hard to access. Around 15 million Indians contract the disease annually, with an estimated 20,000 malaria-related fatalities each year.  Some say these figures are gross underestimations. While India is putting up a robust fight against malaria through supply of relatively inexpensive anti-malarial drugs, its strategy is bereft of steps to deny mosquitoes a breeding ground. Poor sanitation, untreated garbage and stagnant water facilitate the breeding of mosquitoes. By improving sanitation and drainage, India would be taking on the mosquito menace more effectively. A growing challenge that health authorities are encountering worldwide is the growing resistance of malaria parasites to drugs. Mosquitoes are also developing resistance to pesticides. This underscores the need for an approach that is multi-pronged and multi-faceted. 

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