India Bucking Global Trend With Rise in Malaria Cases

by Tanya Thomas on  September 14, 2011 at 7:58 PM Tropical Disease News
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India is bucking the global trend that has seen a dramatic fall in the number of malaria deaths in the past decade while dengue fever has now become established in Africa, experts said Tuesday.
 India Bucking Global Trend With Rise in Malaria Cases
India Bucking Global Trend With Rise in Malaria Cases

The number of malaria deaths has fallen by a fifth over the past decade helped by increased funds to fight the disease, better drugs and mosquito nets, the Roll Back Malaria campaign said in a new report.

Mortality from malaria in 2009 was 781,000, compared with 984,000 in 2000, the UN-backed campaign said.

However, India is still recording high numbers of deaths, which some experts say are underestimated.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says about 5,000 children and 10,000 adults die each year from malaria in India. However a study published last year by the Lancet said there are more than 200,000 malaria deaths each year and that WHO's reporting is flawed.

Roll Back Malaria executive director Awa Marie Coll-Seck highlighted that while it was possible to eradicate malaria by 2015 with extra funding, "it is not because cases are falling that we are going to say it is finished."

"In certain regions where malaria is not considered a public health problem, like the north of India, there is a discord with the global figures," she told AFP as the report was launched at the UN headquarters.

"Some say the figures we give for India are not high enough and that in reality the situation is more serious than what we say.

"A lot of researchers and WHO experts are now in India looking into this. So India is a problem and we must be careful with this region."

Coll-Seck added that countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar had also lagged behind the global fall in malaria cases and deaths. There are also fears over the resistance to drugs which has been seen in some countries.

Dengue fever is also a new phenomenon in Africa.

"There have been cases diagnosed in Africa," Coll-Seck said. "Before they were not reported."

She said some health workers mistake dengue, a mosquito-borne virus, to malaria which is a major killer in Asia. "People never spoke about it. I was surprised that people do not talk about it in Africa and diagnose it more often.

"Now they are talking about it and cases are being diagnosed."

Around 80 percent of all malaria cases and more than 90 percent of malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease costs about 12 billion dollars annually in lost output.

So far, enough insecticide-treated nets have been distributed to cover nearly 80 percent of Africa's population at risk.

Three nations -- Morocco, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates -- have been certified malaria-free by the WHO, said the report, A Decade of Partnership and Results.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon said there has been "remarkable achievement" in the fight against malaria which "is on the retreat across the globe."

In the past decade, malaria deaths and cases have fallen by half in more than 10 African countries. "Millions of pregnant women and young children in poor areas have been saved from this lethal, yet treatable, disease," he said.

Ban highlighted "a fifteen-fold increase in international funding" for malaria control over the past 10 years. About 1.5 billion dollars was spent in the battle in 2010.

Source: AFP

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