India recorded 25 million cases of malaria and 30,000
deaths in the year 2009, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
That’s one-tenth the number of cases worldwide. It should be noted that earlier
on, under the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) in India,
malaria was believed to have infected 1.53 million and killed just over 1,100
in 2009.

‘We have worked with a new mathematical model on the
2009 malaria figures. As per our estimates, India recorded 25 million cases of
malaria and 30,000 deaths in 2009. We are still refining the methodology,’ WHO
experts told The Times of India.

Dr AC Dhariwal, director of NVBDCP, agrees with the
new figures.

‘We agree with WHO’s new estimates. Majority of the
cases and deaths are in the under-30 age group. India’s malaria numbers are
highly under-estimated till date. Malaria affects every part of India, and it
isn’t possible to record every case. We can only gradually come closer to the
actual number,’ Dr Dhariwal said.

A bigger threat emerging is that of drug resistance.
About ten years ago, the most commonly used anti-malaria drug, Chloroquine,
stopped being effective against the malaria parasite, forcing countries to adopt
the second line of treatment, called Artemisinin-combinations. A study done by
the Public Health foundation of India claims that only government hospitals,
which treat about 40 per cent of the country’s malaria cases, are treating
patients with these second-line drugs. Chloroquinine is right now much cheaper.

Recent findings at the Indian Institute of Tropical
Meteorology, a government-funded research centre in Pune, shows that as India’s
climate becomes hotter and wetter with global climate change, there will be
attendant impact on human health and well being. Irregularities in climatic
conditions and high temperature affect the distribution of vector-borne
diseases like malaria, dengue, Japanese encephalitis, lymphatic filariasis, and
kala-azar.

Experts recommend control and prevention as the first
and logical line of defence since the fallout is always more difficult to
manage. The most critical aspect is prevention of mosquito (or other vector)
breeding. Pouring oil on stagnant pools of water around homes kills the larva.
Covering water containers and proper disposal of open containers do not allow
the mosquito to breed.

The theme of the fourth World Malaria Day (April 25) –
Achieving Progress and Impact – reinforces the international community’s
renewed efforts towards attaining zero malaria deaths by 2015. On the one hand,
there is increased urgency to ensure access to affordable and effective
anti-malarial combination treatments worldwide, and on the other, to provide
protective insecticide-treated nets and other preventive measures. The Global
Malaria Action Plan also drives home the need to promote new initiatives and
solutions.

Meanwhile in
Mumbai

A recent Hindustan Times article reported on citizens
in Mumbai conducting campaigns to ensure their neighbourhoods are malaria-free.
For instance, the Little Gibbs Road Advanced Locality Management (ALM) in Malabar
Hill had, last year, carried out a photo audit of breeding grounds for
mosquitoes in their area. Conducted by Pest Control India in collaboration with
the ALM and the municipal corporation, the ALM will now check if these breeding
grounds have been cleared.

Several residents’ associations and ALMs are using various
means – posters, awareness campaigns and working with authorities – to pre-empt
the dreaded disease. In Khar, while the Union Park Residents’ Association is
using their community radio, 90.8 FM, to spread awareness about malaria, the
Khar Residents’ Association is distributing educative posters to locals.