Despite reporting a large reduction in number of cases of malaria in 2018, India still continues to account for a massive proportion of cases worldwide, according to the World Malaria Report 2019, released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) earlier this week. According to the report, 19 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and India carried almost 85% of the global malaria burden.
Malaria is mostly caused by two types of parasites – Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. India accounted for a little less than half (47%) of the malaria cases caused by P. vivax. Globally P. vivax, caused 7.5 million malarial cases. More than half (53%) were found to be in South-East Asia. In the year 2018, India had 2,22,730 cases of P. vivax malaria. The number of cases of P. falciparum was not much lower either, at 2,04,733.
Despite being the highest burdened country in the South-east Asia region, India showed a reduction of 51% in reported cases compared to 2017 and of 60% compared to 2016. Three countries accounted for 98% of the total reported cases in the region, the main contributor being India (58%), followed by Indonesia (30%) and Myanmar (10%). The reported malaria deaths in the region dropped to 165 in 2018, with reductions of 93% and 21.42% compared with 2010 and 2017, respectively. India, Indonesia and Myanmar respectively accounted for 58%, 21% and 12% of the total reported deaths in the region.
The report pointed out that there might be a gap between the reported and the actual number of cases. It said, “Although cases continue to decrease in the public sector, estimates indicate that there are still gaps in reporting from the private sector and in treatment seeking in the three countries.” According to WHO, there were 67 lakh cases of malaria in India, out of which only around 4,00,000 were reported.
The report said that in the South-East Asia region, the major challenges remain decreased funding, treatment failures and vector resistance to pyrethroids, the insecticides used against the vectors.
Nearly 85% of global malaria deaths in 2018 were concentrated in 20 countries in the WHO African Region and India; Nigeria accounted for almost 24% of all global malaria deaths, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (11%), the United Republic of Tanzania (5%), and Angola, Mozambique and Niger (4% each).
According to the WHO, as many as 49 countries reported fewer than 10,000 cases of malaria, up from 46 countries in 2017 and 40 countries in 2010, showing that more and more countries are on the verge of eliminating malaria.