Following a decade of remarkable progress in the fight against malaria, the malaria incidence rate has plateaued and, in some places, increased. On the global stage, we sit at a crossroads. The possibility of eliminating malaria in our lifetime is real, but only if we can pull together as a community.
We need a sense of urgency, leadership, innovation. We need more effective supply chains and stronger health systems. We need global, regional and local private-sector engagement to deliver on the promise to end malaria.
Fortunately, we’re seeing such efforts unfolding in India. Just look at the recent response to Cyclone Fani, which struck the Indian state of Odisha this past May, forcing the evacuation of more than 1 million people and increasing the risk of malaria and other diseases among the displaced.
In early July, the government of Odisha worked with Malaria No More India to distribute 35,000 long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs), which were donated by Vestergaard, to people in Puri, the area hardest hit by the cyclone. As the LLINs were being handed out, accredited social health activists demonstrated how to use, clean, and care for the nets. It was an extraordinarily coordinated response to a particularly dangerous health threat.
But our partnership goes far beyond this one catastrophic event. On World Mosquito Day, Malaria No More India launched its “India Against Mosquito” campaign alongside government officials, the private, philanthropic and civic sectors, representatives from Vestergaard. This campaign is designed to raise awareness about the dangers that mosquitos pose and to promote innovative solutions for controlling the mosquito and the diseases it carries.
India has made tremendous progress in fighting malaria, reducing cases by nearly 80 percent and deaths by approximately 90 percent since 2000. And in 2018, India reduced malaria cases by half over the previous year. In the state of Odisha, there was an impressive 82 percent drop in malaria cases from 2017 to 2018. Much of this success can be attributed to the mass and continuous distribution of LLINs, as well as indoor residual spraying (IRS).
Despite these accomplishments, parts of India still struggle with a high incidence of malaria, leading the government to accelerate its efforts to eliminate malaria by 2030. As part of its National Strategy Plan, the Government of India will expand the distribution of these vector control tools, so that everyone that is at risk of malaria throughout the nation has access to them.
Additionally, officials will address the growing problem of insecticide resistance, which has lowered the effectiveness of that some LLINs and IRS treatments. For that reason, India is looking to partners such as Vestergaard to contribute innovative, next-generation tools to help solve this serious impediment to malaria elimination.
We applaud the Government of India in its commitment to confront this challenge. They are a beacon of light for other malaria endemic countries. We also call for greater clarity and simplification of the national product registration process, to help speed the deployment of new tools in India. Finally, we call on private-sector players that have the resources and capacity to take on the oldest, deadliest disease in human history to engage in the fight against malaria in India. Only then can we meet our 2027 goal to eliminate malaria in India for good.
Regional Director Asia at Vestergaard Frandsen India.