English | Dzongkha Sunday, March 7, 2021

Bhutan now targets to eliminate Malaria by 2020

Sangay Chezom, Paro
Aug 31, 2019

Bhutan now plans to eliminate malaria by 2020, after the country failed to meet its target to eliminate the disease by 2018. The World Health Organization (WHO) has set a target for a few other countries including Bhutan to eliminate malaria by 2020.

 The National Malaria Surveillance System of Bhutan reports a dramatic drop in malaria cases, from nearly 40,000 in 1994 to 45 in 2013. And according to the Health Ministry, this year only 18 cases were reported. Sarpang and Samdrup Jongkhar are the only two districts that have records of malaria cases this year. These new infections are from the villages along the border of the two districts.

“Bhutan since 2012, we were in the elimination mood and we have targeted to achieve zero indigenous in 2018. However, we have not been able to achieve the target because we had six indigenous cases reported in 2018. In 2019 we have a few cases. Till date, we have 18 cases of which 4 cases are from SamdrupJongkhar and around 4 from Sarpang. And rest diagnosed in other dzongkhags are mostly imported malaria cases,” Tobgyal, the Program Analyst of Vector-borne Disease Control Program, said.

With the country looking forward to eliminating malaria from these two districts, there are plans for a cross border collaboration meeting.  Studies show that Assam is a high malaria endemic area though the cases have been declining.

“Our land borders are porous and with the movement of people, both sides are vulnerable. Basically, now we have to develop information sharing, knowing each other working in malaria prevention and informally engage ourselves in sharing information across the border,” Tobgyal added.

In an effort to share experience in the progress towards elimination, seven countries including Bhutan attended a peer to peer exchange on the prevention of re-establishment of malaria transmission in Paro, which ended yesterday.

The other six participating countries from the Asia Pacific region are  Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Timor Leste.

Sri-Lanka eliminated malaria in 2012.

“People are forgetting malaria and also the clinicians they think malaria is no longer there. We approached it in a different way. Nowadays, the highest proportion of our resources are spent on social marketing and awareness programs and advocacy and clinician training program. We have changed our attitude,” said Dr Hemantha Herath, the Director of Anti-Malaria Campaign, Sri-Lanka.

The malaria elimination is a global agenda and all countries are said to be gearing to achieve malaria elimination by 2030.

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