Wednesday October 23, 2019

Malaria-free Zone: Sri Lanka’s victory over the disease is remarkable

Sri Lanka's road to eliminating malaria was tough and demanded well-calibrated responsive policies but it stands as a malaria-free island country today

Mosquito on human skin. Image Source: Wikimedia commons

Sri Lanka,Aug 5, 2016: In a remarkable public health achievement, Sri Lanka has been certified as malaria-free island country by World Health Organisation (WHO).

“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. This is testament to the courage and vision of its leaders, and signifies the great leaps that can be made when targeted action is taken.

It also demonstrates the importance of grass-roots community engagement and a whole-of-society approach when it comes to making dramatic public health gains, “WHO Regional Director, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said here.

Sri Lanka’s road to eliminating the mosquitoes was tough, and demanded well-calibrated, responsive policies. After malaria cases soared in the 1970s and 80s, the country’s anti-malaria campaign in the 1990s adjusted its strategy to intensively target the parasite in addition to targeting the mosquito. The change in strategy was unorthodox, but highly effective.

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Mobile malaria clinics in high transmission areas meant that prompt and effective treatment could reduce the parasite reservoir and the possibility of further transmission. Effective surveillance, community engagement and health education, meanwhile, enhanced the ability of authorities to respond, and mobilised popular support for the campaign. The adaptation and flexibility of strategies and support from key partners such as WHO and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria fast-tracked success.
Fighting Malaria. Image source: Wikimedia commin
Fighting Malaria. Image source: Wikimedia commin
By 2006, the country recorded less than 1 000 cases of malaria per year, and since October 2012, the indigenous cases were down to zero. For the past three-and-a-half years, no locally transmitted cases have been recorded. To maintain elimination and ensure the parasite is not reintroduced to the country, the anti-malaria campaign is working closely with local authorities and international partners to maintain surveillance and response capacity and to screen high-risk populations entering the country.
Sri Lanka is the second country in the WHO South-East Asia Region to eliminate malaria after Maldives. The announcement of Sri Lanka’s victory over malaria was made at the WHO South-East Asia Region’s annual Regional Committee meeting in the presence of health ministers and senior health officials from all 11 Member States.

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The Regional Director said WHO will continue to support the efforts of Sri Lanka’s health authorities as they relate to malaria, as well as the country’s wider public health mission. This outstanding achievement should be a springboard to further public health gains in the country and the South-East Asia Region as a whole. (IANS)

  • Jagpreet Kaur Sandhu

    Indeed great! To eradicate a disease like possible and is helpful to so many lifes!

Next Story

WHO Reports Progress in Containing Ebola Outbreak in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

It is impossible to predict where the outbreak is going to go next, said Ryan.

WHO, Ebola, Outbreak
The executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies, Michael Ryan, says he is largely optimistic that aid workers are getting control of the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo. VOA

The World Health Organization reports progress in containing the Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, but says many challenges to its elimination remain.  WHO reports the number of cases in the outbreak now stands at 3,207, including 2,144 deaths.

The executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies, Michael Ryan, says he is largely optimistic that aid workers are getting control of the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo.  But, he says, it is impossible to say the outbreak is over.

“It is not.  It is impossible to predict where the outbreak is going to go next,” said Ryan. “But… I do–I would stand over the fact that we have significantly contained the virus in a much smaller geographic area.  Now we have to kill the virus.  The problem is, it is back in areas that are deeply insecure.”

In fact, the virus has come full circle.  Ryan notes the disease has moved from Butembo and other urban areas to the remote, rural town of Mangina, the epicenter of the outbreak.  He says the virus is back where it began when the Ebola outbreak was declared August 1, 2018.

WHO, Ebola, Outbreak
But, he says, it is impossible to say the outbreak is over. Pixabay

“So, essentially the virus is back in the same zone,” said Ryan. “So, the factors that allowed that virus to transmit at low intensity for a number of months, have not changed.  Deep insecurity, reticence amongst the population, distrust and many other factors continue to make this a very dangerous situation.  But a situation, for which I believe we are making significant progress at this time.”

Ryan says WHO is increasing the scale of its operation, engaging in active surveillance across North Kivu province and actively seeking new cases and tracing contacts to keep the virus from spreading.

He says more than 230,000 people have been vaccinated against the deadly disease and more lives are being saved among people infected with the virus who are coming to the treatment centers.

He says the fatality rate among the nearly 800 patients currently in Ebola treatment units is less than one third – a significantly better outcome than the two-thirds fatality rate reported for the disease overall.

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Still, this is the biggest Ebola outbreak in Africa since the epidemic across three West African countries in 2014 killed more than 11,000 people. (VOA)