On Thursday, Bangladesh observes World Malaria Day and notes that the disease has nevertheless persisted in 13 districts in Bangladesh, even though the number of people who contracted malaria has experienced a decline
Malaria, a disease most severe, was considered unconquerable once upon a time. But with the advent of medical technology, malaria was thought to have become a relic of the past.
Today, Bangladesh observes World Malaria Day and notes that the disease has nevertheless persisted in 13 districts in Bangladesh, even though the number of people who contracted malaria has experienced a decline.
The 13 districts – Chittagong, Bandarban, Rangamati, Khagrachhari, Cox’s Bazar, Sylhet, Moulvibazar, Habiganj, Sunamganj, Netrakona, Sherpur, Mymensingh, and Kurigram – are all on the border.
As such, there are concerns as to how this affects movement across the border, or if the trans-border movement is affecting the malaria.
The government’s National Malaria Elimination Program (NMEP), whose role is evident from the title, has one central office in Dhaka that monitors malaria outbreaks and statistics. However, the NMEP has no dedicated cells in any of the marked regions.
Rather, local hospitals and upazila health complexes provide aid to malaria patients. But without a dedicated program in the areas where the disease persists, stakeholders remain concerned over how long it may take to eradicate.
Experts said malaria was prevalent all over the country before independence. But over time, it has been nearly eliminated. The reasons behind the persistence of the disease in these districts are frequently cited as: trans-border movement, parasite hosts, and ecology.
According to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), 10,523 malaria cases were identified in 13 districts in 2018, a steep fall from 39,719 in 2015.
The Chittagong Hill Tracts have also reported a reduction in malaria cases, 9,540 in 2018 from 35,968 in 2015.
Kurigram and Sherpur are very close to eliminating malaria for good. Both districts reported only two cases apiece in 2018, three in 2016 and 2015. Sherpur improved rapidly. The district identified 7 cases in 2017, 16 in 2016 and 17 in 2015. Eight People who visited those are affected in last 3 years were identified centrally in dhaka.
Can the government eliminate malaria?
The government has set a target of total eradication of malaria by 2030. According to the plan, 59 districts will be free of malaria by 2021, Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar will be malaria-free by 2025, and the disease will be eliminated from the three hill tract districts by 2030.
Dr MM Aktaruzzaman, deputy program manager of Malaria and Aedes Transmitted Diseases at the DGHS, said: “The number of malaria patients has falled sharply lately. Eliminating malaria is not an easy task, it is very complicated. We declare a district malaria-free when no cases are reported three years in a row.”
He noted in particular that the influx of Rohingya refugees and prevailing conditions at the refugee camps have only exacerbated the national problem.
Akramul Islam, director of Brac’s communicable diseases and water sanitation and hygiene program, said: “It really depends on the ecology. The environment in these districts facilitates breeding of anopheles mosquitoes. It is a fact that anopheles mosquitoes are rarely seen in other parts of the country.”