A government project to control malaria in Odisha has resulted in a decline of 85 per cent in the average number of malaria cases in a month.
The drop in cases was seen in four districts of the state—Angul, Dhenkanal, Kandhamal and Dolangir—and is a result of a collaboration between the Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Malaria Research (ICMR-NIMR), and the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), Odisha. The project was funded by the Medicines for Malaria Venture, Geneva.
The state of Odisha has the highest burden of malaria in the country—in 2017, the state reported 3,52,140 cases, according to NVBDCP data. The number of deaths in Odisha stood at 25, second only to West Bengal, that recorded 29 deaths in that year. In 2016, the number of deaths stood at 77, and the number of cases were 4,49,697.
According to a statement by the ICMR, under the malaria control project that was started in 2013, mass screenings were organised across remote villages in the state. The World Health Organization's protocol of 'Test-Treat-Track', that urges malaria-endemic countries to "scale up diagnostic testing, treatment and surveillance" was followed. The state government scaled up this project, and a new state initiative called Durgama Anchalare Malaria Nirakaran (DAMaN) was started across 22 districts.
Dr Neena Valecha, director, ICMR-NIMR, said that the five-year collaborative operational research programme with NVBDCP Odisha has served as a “living laboratory for the study of improved malaria case management.”
The learning experience from this project has led to several innovative practices in the states, said Dr Pramod Kumar Meherda, commissioner-secretary, department of health and family welfare, Odisha. “We now need to sustain the gains to ensure our goals for elimination of malaria by 2027,” he said.
According to the WHO, the state of Odisha and the northeastern region are particularly challenging for malaria control because local residents work in forests that are thick with mosquitoes carrying the malarial parasite. Besides, mosquitoes in these areas tend to transmit the disease efficiently and "have developed resistance to three of the four WHO-recommended classes of insecticides."