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.
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.
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.
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)
Tuberculosis has plagued humans for thousands of years and continues to do so. In advance of this year’s World TB Day, March 24, the World Health Organization is issuing a call to action to eradicate the disease by 2030.
As part of these efforts, the WHO is launching an oral drug regimen it says can more effectively treat people with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.
TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious disease, killing nearly 4,500 people a day and infecting 10 million people a year.
Despite the grim statistics, much progress has been made in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of the disease. The WHO says 54 million lives have been saved since 2000. But the WHO also warns the gains risk being lost with the emergence of multidrug-resistant TB or MDR-TB.
The current treatment for MDR-TB involves a two-year treatment course of painful injections, which provoke many bad side effects.
The WHO says it is hopeful the new oral treatment program it is launching will be more effective in controlling the spread of the particularly virulent form of tuberculosis.
The director of the WHO’s Global TB Program, Tereza Kasaeva, told VOA the new oral drug treatment the WHO is recommending has far fewer adverse side effects.
“Of course, it will be definitely much, much easier and there will not be a need for regular frequent visits of the physicians or health workers for making these injections. No doubt, as we see from the data, the effectiveness, the treatment success will be definitely much, much higher,” Kasaeva said.
The South African government has announced it plans to adopt the injection-free treatment. Kasaeva said the cost of the oral treatment is around $2,000, which is largely unaffordable for low-income countries.