(Online Course) Contemporary Issues for IAS Mains 2012: The Hindu – Conquering Malaria

The Hindu

Conquering Malaria

Q. Write a short notes on Malaria (in the context of WHO & British Medical
Journal’s Report)

Answer: When the World Health Organisation published its
revised guidelines for malaria treatment in March 2010, just four years after it
came out with its maiden version, an editorial in the British Medical Journal (BMJ)
was quick to highlight its significance. It was a “testament of how quickly

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malaria control” had developed and a “marked reduction in the global burden of
malaria” had been achieved. A WHO report now confirms this assessment. There has
been a 20 per cent drop in the number of malarial deaths during the last decade
— from about one million deaths in 2000 to about 800,000 in 2009. The number of
infections fell from 233 million to 225 million. About a third of the 108
countries where the disease is endemic may be able to eradicate it in a decade
if all targets continue to be met. In India, the annual number of confirmed
cases has remained “stable” at 1.5 million since 2007. But according to a 2008
WHO report, the number of cases reported by countries was “only 37 per cent of
the estimated global incidence.” And the gap between reported numbers and true
incidence “was greatest in [the] South-East Asia region,” where 10 of the 11
countries were malaria endemic. This gap certainly exists in India. The data
collection is poor and is mainly confined to the nine States that are highly
endemic—Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Orissa, Chhattisgarh,
Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and West Bengal.

The battle against mosquitoes can be won when an efficacious
vaccine becomes available. Interim results of a Phase-III trial undertaken in
seven African countries on more than 15,000 children of two age groups — 6 to 12
weeks and 5 to 17 months — show some promise. Fiftyfive per cent protection was
seen in children belonging to the older age group. However, efficacy declined
with time, and adverse events like meningitis and seizures were observed in the
vaccinated children. Although complete results will be available only by 2014,
WHO has taken the “unusual step of recommending” the vaccine for use in some
African countries by 2015 if
the final results turn out to be favourable, as The New England Journal of
Medicine notes in an editorial. In the absence of a vaccine, insecticide-treated
mosquito nets and indoor spraying will continue to be the two potent preventive
weapons. Though the preventive tools were able to cut malaria cases and deaths
by half in 11 African countries, the malaria control programme could be declared
successful only when the disease ceases to be a mass killer in Africa and
South-East Asia.

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