Sri Lanka has become only the second country in South Asia to be certified malaria free by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The island nation of a population of just over 20 million (almost 10 times less than India’s Uttar Pradesh), achieved this unique public health victory through a relentless campaign started sometime in the 1990s.
Praising Sri Lanka’s achievement, WHO Regional Director, Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh said, “Sri Lanka’s achievement is truly remarkable. In the mid-20th century it was among the most malaria-affected countries, but now it is malaria-free.”
She pointed out that Sri Lanka’s strategy of tackling the parasite and the mosquito at the same time with “grass-roots community engagement and a whole-of-society approach” helped in this “dramatic gain”.
Lanka recorded its last malaria case in October 2012. It should be noted here that the malaria cases in 1999 stood at 264,549.
How Lanka defeated the Anopheles mosquito:
Health workers visited even the remotest parts of the country to check the people for malaria. The government ensured that proper sanitation methods are adhered to so that breeding of mosquitoes is prevented.
The government set up a single-point agency called Anti-Malarial Campaign with the ministry of health. The AMC was the only one which could supply malaria medicines. This meant that private hospitals were prevented from profiting by hoarding of such medicines and notify AMC when a malaria case came to them.
Every Sri Lankan national, whether in the country or serving outside, immigrant and tourists were tested for malaria.
The AMC operated a 24×7 helpline for tackling malaria at any level.
Also, as per WHO’s own classification, Sri Lanka is the second country in South-East Asia Region to eliminate malaria after Maldives. Both countries are the only ones in entire South and South-East Asia to have defeated the disease.
Where stands India?
According to WHO, India more than reduced by 50 per cent its malaria cases between 2000 and 2013. While there were 2 million cases in 2000, there were 882 000 in 2013. The WHO says that India might reach pre-elimination by 2017.
The biggest challenge to India’s malaria combat efforts is to reduce the count in hilly states and the states of northeast, which together account for 80 per cent of all malaria cases in India.