How Sri Lanka became malaria-free
Even as Delhi is reeling under rising mosquito-borne illnesses, tiny Sri Lanka, among the most malaria-affected countries not long ago, has today been certified malaria-free+ by the World Health Organisation (WHO). After the Maldives, Sri Lanka is the second country in WHO’s South-East Asia Region to eliminate malaria. Sixty years ago, Sri Lanka was one of the most malaria affected countries. And since October 2012, indigenous cases of malaria there have come down to zero. By comparison, India is third among 15 countries having the highest cases of malaria and deaths due to the disease. And while malarial deaths have fallen across the world in the last 15 years, the disease is still an acute public health problem. In 2015 alone, there were an estimated 214 million new cases of malaria, and approximately 4.38 lakh died of the disease. So how did Sri Lanka, a tropical country, become malaria-free? WHO said that the island nation’s success comes from a strategy shift it made in 1990s. The strategy: 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,” a WHO statement said. Further, to maintain elimination and ensure the parasite is not reintroduced to the country, Sri Lanka’s anti-malaria campaign is working closely with local authorities as well as international partners to keep up the surveillance and the response capacity, and to screen high-risk populations entering the country. Considering that as many as 3.2 billion people, or almost half the world’s population, are at risk from the disease, Sri Lanka becoming malaria-free is a “remarkable public health achievement” as WHO puts it. “Sri Lanka’s road to elimination was tough, and demanded well-calibrated, responsive policies,” WHO said. It is no wonder then that WHO calls Sri Lanka becoming malariafree a “remarkable public health achievement”.
Sri Lanka was one of the most Malaria affected countries.