According to the latest WHO estimates, there were 214 million cases of malaria in 2015 and 438,000 deaths. About 3.2 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children and pregnant women particularly vulnerable. This life threatening disease makes one experience high grade fever with chills and rigors, flu – like illness and deterioration of health taking the lives of even the people in the limelight like Lord Byron, Oliver Cromwell and David Livingston.
Rampant in the humid and tropical terrain, the infected female Anopheles mosquito, also known as malaria vectors, infect people by injecting the Plasmodium parasite that enters the bloodstream of the human host and lodges in the liver where it multiplies almost 10,000 times. After two weeks, it infects the red blood cells where the parasite replicates and invades other red blood cells till they are taken up by the mosquito of same kind to complete the sexual phase. Thus the infectivity continues after the next blood meal.
With almost 1.5 million reported cases every year, malaria has re-emerged as a major cause of morbidity in Pakistan. Pakistan has been categorized in the Group 3 countries of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region accounting for 95% of the total regional malaria burden. Unfortunately, rural areas with poor sanitation facilities and flood-affected areas are at greatest risk.
The establishment of an effective malarial control program is necessary as its prevalence is hindering socioeconomic development in our region. Strategies based on the global and regional malaria control and elimination initiative have been put into place by the local health authorities of Pakistan and the WHO.
Roll Back Malaria (RBM) initiative has been started by WHO, UNICEF, UNDP and the World Bank aiming to reduce the malaria burden by 75% in high and moderate endemic regions. Multiple prevention measures including promotion of use of insecticide treated bed nets and targeted use of residual insecticide spraying were part of its key elements.
Increased prevention and control measures have led to a 60% reduction in mortality rates globally since year 2000. However WHO aims to bring down the cases to 90% by year 2030.
Indeed the road to elimination is tough, and demands well calibrated responsive policies. But with the use of interventional approaches like mobile malaria clinics; effective surveillance; community participation and health education; mobilized popular support for the 2016 campaigns in Sri Lanka and it became the second country in the WHO South- East Asia Region to eliminate malaria after Maldives and Morocco was declared free of malaria in 2015 amongst Eastern Mediterranean Region while the rest of included countries reported minimum/imported cases with no local transmission.
Authors: Afnan Talat, Nayab Munir, Aleena Khan
Reviewed and edited by: Khizra Imran