cases of malaria are on the rise across the world. Malaria, transmitted by the Anopheles mosquitoes, kills over one million people and causes 300-500 million episodes of illness each year. Majority of the 3,000 deaths each day and 10 new cases each second occur in Africa. Malaria not only takes a high toll on human life but also impedes development.
Efforts to control malaria in the past 50 years have met with little success. In many regions where malaria transmission had been almost eliminated, the disease has made a comeback. Recent research has revealed that strains of Plasmodium falciparum , that are resistant to drugs, are spreading rapidly.
There have also been recent reports of drug resistance in people infected with Plasmodium vivax , a less virulent form of parasite.Even the mosquitoes are becoming increasingly resistant to insecticides, and in many cases, have adapted them-selves to avoid surfaces coasted with mosquito repellents.
It is against this back-drop of a worsening health crisis caused by malaria the world-over that Gro Harlem Brundtland, director general of the World Health Organisation ( who ), launched the Roll Back Malaria ( rbm ) initiative. In November 1998, the heads of United Nations Children's Fund ( unicef ), United Nations Development Programme ( undp ) and the World Bank joined the who venture. The proposed initiative was in response to requests from the Organisation of African Unity ( oau ) to who and the World Bank.
The rbm partnership consists of malaria-affected countries, un agencies, the private sector, industry, the 29 member-nations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development ( oecd ), development banks, research entities associated with non-governmental organisations ( ngo s) and the media.
The initiative aims to reduce global malaria mortality by 50 per cent by the year 2010. Six core elements have been adopted in the strategy to achieve this goal - early detection, rapid treatment, multiple means of prevention, well-coordinated action, a dynamic global movement and focused research.
Already activities under the rbm initiative are now gaining momentum in Asia. In South East Asia Region of the who , rbm has been launched in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal and Sri Lanka. In India, failure to fight malaria has been one of the major setbacks on the health front since Independence.
The 1990s marked a resurgence of malaria. There was a recent outbreak of malaria in parts of Bihar including the Palamu district, where more than one lakh people were afflicted by the disease. What is more, over a third of what the Union government spends on health goes towards malaria control.
" rbm will begin in five districts/ regions - namely Goa, Mizoram, Chandigarh in Punjab, Keonjhar in Orissa and Jodhpur in Rajasthan. The areas selected represent diverse ecology in relation to terrain, human settlements, ethnic groups and dynamics of malaria transmission," says V P Sharma, a malaria expert and consultant with the who .
Reported by Richa Shukla