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Fewer malaria-endemic districts in India

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There are substantially fewer malaria-endemic districts in India, Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey informed lawmakers last week. 

In 2016, the Government identified 132 malaria-endemic districts in the country. In 2018, this number had been reduced to 63. 429,928 malaria cases were recorded in the country last year, the Minister informed MPs in a written reply. 

An ambitious deadline of malaria elimination by 2030 has been set out by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Whilst the sharp fall in malaria-endemic districts is encouraging news, India still has a long way to go before malaria elimination becomes a reality. 

The World Malaria Report released earlier this year spotlighted India’s progress, whilst still also lending an insight into the considerable footprint of the disease in the country. India recorded 2.6 million fewer malaria cases in 2018 compared to 2017. Together with sub-Saharan Africa, India accounts for 85 percent of malaria cases and is one of just twenty countries accounting for almost 85 percent of global malaria mortality. 

The reduction in malaria-endemic districts and the number of cases in India shows that progress is attainable, even considering the sizeable burden of the disease. “There is [a] significant reduction in cases of malaria in India over the past several years, which provides optimism that elimination goal of 2030 is achievable,” Dr Altaf Lal, Senior Advisor for Global Health and Pharmaceuticals at Sun Pharmaceuticals, told Health Issues India earlier this year. 

“The work carried out in the states to check the diseases is monitored regularly through monthly reports, review meetings and state visits,” Choubey said of malaria and other vector-borne diseases, including chikungunya and dengue fever. The Minister also pointed to the National Framework for Malaria Elimination, 2016-30 and a National Strategic Plan, 2017-22, which includes provisions for implementation of strategies tackling vector-borne diseases at the district level. 

Overcoming the challenges which stand in the way of realising this goal is likely to be a difficult task, but not an insurmountable one. It requires commitment by policymakers, sustained interventions, provision of treatments and preventative commodities, and robust surveillance — a difficult prospect in a nation with a population exceeding a billion people. 

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