World Malaria Day 2023: Will India Achieve Malaria Elimination By 2030?

World Malaria Day 2023: Will India Achieve Malaria Elimination By 2030?
There has been a 66 per cent reduction in India’s official malaria burden between 2018 and 2022.

On World Malaria Day, health experts acknowledge that India's objective of eliminating malaria by 2030 is feasible, although significant hurdles remain.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : April 25, 2023 5:55 PM IST

India has set a target to eliminate malaria by 2030. The National Framework for Malaria Elimination 2016-2030, which was launched in February 2016, laid down specific milestones and targets to achieve the target while encouraging all Indian states to accelerate efforts towards malaria elimination. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO)'s World Malaria Report 2020, India showed an impressive 60 per cent reduction in reported malaria cases compared with 2017, and a 46 per cent reduction in cases compared with 2018.

While malaria cases increased significantly worldwide in 2020, India made remarkable progress in reducing malaria cases and deaths the same year. In fact, among the world's 11 highest-burden countries, only India recorded progress against malaria, WHO noted in its World Malaria Report 2021. These statistics prove that India is indeed moving closer zero malaria.

It is possible for India to become malaria-free by 2030? Here's what experts say

"Malaria elimination by 2030 is possible, provided we are able to overcome the existing challenges and address certain key gaps such as absence of private sector in the fight and underreported malaria burden, etc," opines Dr Paparao Nadakuduru, Sr. Consultant Physician & HOD - Internal Medicine, Citizens Specialty Hospital, Hyderabad .

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He adds, "While India still accounts for the majority of the malaria burden of WHO's Southeast Asia region, there has been a 66 per cent reduction in the country's official malaria burden between 2018 and 2022. Also there has been a decline in malaria related deaths in the country which needs to be applauded."

To get the malaria-free status from the WHO, India needs to ensure zero transmission of malaria cases by 2027 and maintain it for the next three years till 2030.

Dr Aniket Mule, consultant internal medicine, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road, also acknowledges that India's objective of become malaria-free by 2027 and eliminating the illness by 2030 is feasible, although significant hurdles remain.

"The government has achieved remarkable success in its malaria eradication path, with an official malaria burden decrease of about 66 per cent between 2018 and 2022. While India's progress is commendable, the path to elimination remains long and fraught with difficulties. India continues to bear the lion's share of the malaria burden in WHO's Southeast Asia area," he points out.

According to Dr Mule, COVID disruptions, anticipated climate change consequences, humanitarian crises, health system shortfalls, and limited donor finance, are some of the problems in controlling malaria.

Dr. Honey Savla, Internal Medicine, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mumbai Central, is doubtful that India will be able to eliminate malaria totally by 2030.

She expresses, "For a country like India, which already has a huge population and great diversity in the form of literacy, habits that we follow, and the places where we live, it is going to be a great challenge to eliminate malaria. Besides the huge population, there is lack of awareness about precautions to be taken to prevent this disease. Also, chemoprophylaxis is not very properly encouraged in our country, especially in the endemic areas. These are the shortfalls because of which I feel 2030 is too close to eliminate malaria. Having said that nothing is impossible, various measures are being implemented which will help us eradicate malaria."

"India must change its strategic approach from control to elimination"

Dr Nadakuduru suggests, "First, we need to change our strategic approach from control to elimination. Also, private providers, particularly at district levels, should be engaged in district wide efforts around elimination and could be incentivised to do so through insurance reimbursement under the health reform, for example. Second, better strategies and interventions should be devised to address urban malaria. Third, we need to ensure that the political and public health leadership that produced the recent progress made in places like Odisha, particularly among rural and tribal populations does not backslide due to slowing of momentum."

He concludes, "The malaria elimination effort in India requires sustained sub-national and national leadership; given the multiple competing priorities in health in a country of 1.4 billion, this is going to be a challenge."

Malaria-free Asia by 2030

In 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and 17 other regional leaders pledged to eradicate malaria throughout Asia by 2030.

"The achievement of a Malaria Mukt Bharat will be something truly historic and is an ambition that we are working towards. Malaria elimination is not the responsibility of the government alone and requires all members of the society to come together!" said Pratik Kumar, Country Director of Malaria No More. Mr Kumar further goes on to say, "Ensuring each case of malaria is detected and treated is paramount for us to eliminate the disease by 2030, in line with the vision of the Hon'ble Prime Minister." On World Malaria Day, he reaffirms Malaria No More's commitment to help India fight this deadly disease. As he says, "India has made tremendous progress against malaria in the recent years, but now as we approach elimination, there is a need for aggressive and targeted interventions."

For the unversed, malaria is a potentially fatal disease caused by the parasite Plasmodium, which is transmitted by the bite of infected female Anopheles mosquitos. Fever, shaking chills, sweats, muscle aches, vomiting, headache, fatigue are common symptoms of the disease.

World Malaria Day 2023 is observed worldwide today under the theme "Time to deliver zero malaria: invest, innovate, implement".

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