NEW DELHI: With three out of four people being at risk of malaria in South-East Asia region, World Health Organisation called for greater investment in the battle against malaria on the occasion of World Malaria Day.
“1.4 billion people continue to be at risk of malaria in South-East Asia. They are often the poorest, including workers in hilly or forested areas, in development projects such as mining, agroforestry, road and dam constructions, and upland subsistence farming in rural and urban areas,” said Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.
Stressing that the funding needs to be increased for diagnostics, drugs, insecticide-treated mosquito nets, and research and response to drug and insecticide resistance, Dr. Singh said, “We need to empower communities to protect themselves. Eliminating malaria will take greater political will.”
India is expected to decrease malaria case incidence by 50-75 per cent by 2015. Sri Lanka is in the elimination phase with no indigenous case reported since November 2012. Maldives has been malaria-free since 1984.Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nepal, and Sri Lanka reduced the incidence of malaria cases by more than 75 per cent from 2000 to 2012. Thailand and Timor-Leste are on track to achieve a decrease of over 75 percent.
But the gains in malaria control, although substantial, could be reversed due to increasing parasite resistance to drugs, mosquito resistance to insecticides and re-introduction of transmission in places where the disease has been eliminated.
The emergence of artemisinin resistance in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam threatens the global achievements in malaria control and elimination.
Artemisinin-based combination treatment is currently the first line treatment for the most lethal type of malaria, Plasmodium falciparum. Resistance to this drug would compromise the lives of hundreds of thousands of people affected with malaria, and there is an urgent need to invest in ways to contain the spread of resistance to these drugs, said Singh.
“Another danger lies in the fact that the Anopheles mosquitoes, which carry malaria parasites, are increasingly become resistant to insecticides.
“Investments are needed to develop new tools, to conduct operational research to address bottlenecks in malaria control programmes, and to scale-up and ensure rational use of existing interventions,” said Dr. Singh.