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World Health Organization (WHO) and Medical Workers Mark Progress in Southeast Asia Malaria Fight, close monitoring on India and Africa

A Cambodian woman hangs her mosquito net in the temporary dwelling in the fields that she and her husband are clearing to farm. , VOA

ASIA, April 23, 2017: Concerted campaigns in the Greater Mekong Subregion [GMS] to radically reduce the impact of malaria has lifted hopes a vital target to eradicate malaria from the region may be within reach.

Deyer Gobinath, a malaria technical officer with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Thailand, said the outlook is positive for eliminating severe forms of malaria across the region within the next decade.

The goal is for most of the GMS countries by 2025 to try and eliminate falciparium malaria – the most severe form of malaria – the falciparium malariia – and then by 2030 basically all forms or all species of malaria,” Gobinath said.

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In 2015, WHO leaders said there were 14 million malaria cases across Southeast Asia, resulting in 26,000 deaths. Globally, in the same year, the WHO reported 438,000 lives lost, mostly in Africa and warned that 3.2 billion people – almost half the world’s population – face health risks from the disease.

Mortality rates decline; challenges remain

The campaigns in Southeast Asia cover Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, all reporting consistent declines in mortality rates, by as much as 49 percent since 2000.

Populations most vulnerable to the mosquito-borne disease are largely in remote border regions, isolated from infrastructure and immediate medical support.

ASIA, April 24, 2017: The key areas of concern lie in regions between Thailand and Myanmar – also known as Burma – and in Cambodia among others.

But Saw Nay Htoo, director of the Burma Medical Association, said collaboration between medics and local communities has had a positive impact in reducing malaria’s impact.

“In the ground level we set up the malaria [clinic] post which we have at least one malaria health worker, according to the population they have, to detect malaria,” he said. “And if there is malaria positive then the patient is given the malaria medicine. So we have been doing this for three years. It seems our program is going very well – there are less malaria cases in the border areas.”

Combination of drugs

The fight against malaria is largely based on a combination of drugs known as Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy, or ACT, as the main line of drug treatment.

The World Health Organization’s Gobinath said Thailand’s medical infrastructure and funding support have all contributed to lowering the numbers of malaria cases.

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“For malaria in Thailand here’s been quite a remarkable decrease – a steady decrease, decline in the number of confirmed cases of malaria. In the past 10 years or so something like 30,000 cases in 2012; to 2015 it was 19,000 to 20,000 cases. So it’s been a gradual but persistent decline of confirmed malaria cases,” he told VOA.

But he said for progress to be sustained it will require continued “political will and commitment.”

WHO officials said attention needs to focus on migrant worker populations moving across the region’s borders. Thai health authorities have taken steps to enable medical access to migrant populations at risk of malaria, largely in remote border areas.

The battle far from over

But challenges remain, said Maria Dorina Bustos, a WHO technical officer with responsibilities for monitoring drug resistant strains of malaria across 18 countries in the Asia Pacific.

Dorina Bustos said the region with drug resistant forms of malaria is spreading. “The Thai-Cambodia or the Thai-Myanmar border, you need to think about the Thai-Laos border because the Southern Laos drug resistance is also about evident – is documented, it is also there. And what is actually more alarming is happening in the Cambodia side,” she told VOA.

She said drug resistance becomes evident in the delay in clearance of the parasite from the patient. Dorina Bustos says the use of fake drugs and self-treatment also opens the way to drug resistance.

“What we are seeing in the last five years is that it is really emerging in the most parts of the region – initially just in the Western border of Cambodia and now it has also spread to the east and almost the whole country,” Dorina Bustos said.

She said there is a need for close monitoring of major population centers – especially in India and Africa – to ensure successful treatment and avoiding issues of the use of fake medicines.

A positive note has been ongoing investment and research in new drugs, including commitments by major pharmaceutical industries.

“It’s really here in the Mekong where we really have a problem. Cambodia, the borders of Thailand, the borders of Thai/Laos and Cambodia/Vietnam – it’s very specific in the Mekong region,” she said. “For Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and even India, Bangladesh and Nepal the ACT [Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy] is all working perfectly well.” (VOA)

Next Story

Does India’s Giant Step in the Direction of Green Energy Signal an End to Coal?

Coal consumption forecasts have already been downgraded significantly from 2013 projections, and major shifts in energy policy like Modi’s are likely to add significant weight to the idea that India might well become a much bigger player in renewable energy production in the next 20 to 30 years

FILE - Smoke billows from chimneys of the cooling towers of a coal-fired power plant in Dadong, Shanxi province, China. VOA

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced its target to increase India’s renewable energy capacity to an equivalent of 40% of the nation’s total green energy output, it raised eyebrows. Could this mean an end to India’s coking coal industry?

Is there investment for green energy?

For any alternative to coal to be a serious consideration, there must be investment sources. Already India’s renewable target has attracted investors like Japan’s SoftBank, which agreed to a deal to sell power generated from a Northern Indian solar bank at 2.4 rupees per unit – below that of coal power, which currently costs over 3 rupees per unit.

Contrary to the enormous investment in the production of solar panels being manufactured by China, which has made them cheap enough to encourage this Indian growth in solar renewable energy, there has been relatively little investment in Indian coal.

Workers operate machines at a coal mine at Palaran district in Samarinda, Indonesia (VOA)

For instance, state-run NTPC has cancelled several large coal mining projects, including a huge plant in Andhra Pradesh. Meanwhile, the private sector has continued investing in renewables. Adani Power has over $600 million invested in solar panels in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

That Modi has made an investment of $42 billion in the renewable energy sector over the past four years and his renewables plan is likely to generate a further $80 billion in the green energy sector in the next four years is good news for the Rupee. External investment in India is likely a sign of increased currency transaction in forex trading signalling the Rupee gaining strength against other pairs. Like the Indian economy, millions of dollars are traded on currencies every day, and increased interest in the Rupee helps cement India’s economic and investment potential.

How reliant is India on coal power?

Not so long ago the Indian government had a target to connect 40 million households to the national grid by the end of 2018. It even tasked CIL, the state coal monopoly, to produce over a billion tonnes of coal per year by 2020, an increase of almost 100% from 2016. It’s an ambitious goal, notwithstanding the environmental impacts of mining for such an unprecedented amount of coal. This is the same coal that already generates 70% of India’s primary commercial energy requirement; compare that figure to the UK’s 11%, Germany’s 38%, and China’s 68%, while France has practically shut all of its coal power stations. This means that India’s shift from coal could have important implications for the global climate, and any investors looking towards coal would be making a very brave and risky decision.

Environmentally, coal isn’t a sustainable source of power, certainly not in current quotas.

The increasing problem with relying on coal

Environmentally, coal isn’t a sustainable source of power, certainly not in current quotas. Clean-up costs could make coal an out-of-date power source sooner rather than later. A report by Oxford University estimated that investors in coal power may lose upwards of half a trillion dollars because assets cannot be profitably run or retired early due to global temperature rises and agreed carbon emission reductions.

Also Read- Oral Antifungal Drug Linked to Risk of Miscarriage

Coal consumption forecasts have already been downgraded significantly from 2013 projections, and major shifts in energy policy like Modi’s are likely to add significant weight to the idea that India might well become a much bigger player in renewable energy production in the next 20 to 30 years – although it’s difficult not to see coal remaining an important power source considering India’s significantly large coal reserves still available in Eastern India.