The World Malaria Day was marked by civil society organisations and provincial governments on April 25 across the country. In this context, different programmes were arranged to highlight the significance of the day, raise awareness among masses about the disease and underline the need for its prevention.
The theme of this year’s World Malaria Day was ‘Achieving Progress and Impact’. The theme called for the global community’s renewed efforts to make progress towards zero malaria deaths by 2015.
In Pakistan, around 0.5 million malaria cases are reported every year. However, given the realisation, malaria has been declared as a life threatening disease and one of the major health challenges of the 21st century.
The major developments in the industrial sector without proper sewerage, unplanned and unsustainable urbanization and bad sanitary conditions have made the conditions favourable for the expansion of malaria.
The key interventions to fight the scourge of malaria include early diagnosis and prompt treatment of cases, use of long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets (LLINs), elimination of mosquito breeding sites by drainage, filling of wastewater bodies with earth, cleaning of drains and clearing vegetation.
According to WHO reports, due to a countrywide malaria eradication drive launched in 1961, malaria was almost eliminated in the country during the 1960s with a reported figure of some 9,500 in year 1967. However, financial and administrative constraints resulted in the resurgence of malaria in the 1970s, which touched epidemic proportion in 1972-73.
Later in 1975, the strategy switched from eradication to control when malaria control interventions was integrated into the primary health care system. Since then, the health malady persists to be a major public health hitch in the country.
In most parts of the country, the transmission season is post-monsoon, occurring from July through November.
The MDG Pakistan 2010 Report notes that malaria continues to be an endemic disease in large areas of the country. However, the malaria related issues call for attention as the proportion of population in malaria risk areas using effective measure has increased slightly by 10 points from 20 to 30 during 2001 to 2009.
Different reports indicate that the disease is now rising as a grave health problem in Balochistan, FATA and in parts of Punjab and Sindh.
According to MDG Pakistan 2010, the proportion of population facing malaria risk using effective malaria prevention and treatment measures in 2004-05 was 30 per cent, which fell to 25 per cent in 2006-07. But, latest figures of 2009-10 show that there has been a reversal and the number has increased to 50 per cent.
However, there is a mounting concern about the rapidly aggravating situation of malaria in all parts of the country.
Achieving the 75 per cent proportion of population facing malaria using effective malaria prevention and treatment measures by 2015 is the eighth MDG target. But, it is difficult to achieve this unless increased investment in water supply infrastructure is made. Health development experts say that in view of the current depressing trends and the country’s current financial problems it is hardly possible to meet the target.
“Today, only one in four malaria sufferers in Pakistan actually gets treated for the disease. When it comes to malaria treatment, only about 25 per cent of patients infected approach public-sector hospitals. The rest turn to quack [unqualified] doctors and self-medication,” IRIN reported quoting Muhammad Mukhtar, a research officer at the national malaria control programme.
Health experts believe that people can be treated for malaria with easily available medicines, if diagnosed properly. But, a fragile health infrastructure, deepening poverty, inadequate number of doctors and paramedical staff and bad or no monitoring system for mortality rate from the malaria.