The life-threatening disease claims thousands of lives a year and hinders global prosperity. However, the global malaria cases have been declining with many endemic countries moving towards malaria elimination in recent years.
India too made a massive improvement in reducing malaria burden. Malaria cases in the country have reduced from over 1 million in 2018 to around 419,000 in 2018. We aim to achieve zero indigenous cases by 2027, sustain it thereafter and secure malaria-free certification by WHO in 2030.
However, more needs to be done to accelerate and sustain the progress and contribute towards eliminating malaria in Bhutan as well as other bordering countries. The importance of strong collaboration, coordination, and conversation at the local level across the international borders and with other sectors is immensely important to eradicate malaria. Bhutan aims to achieve malaria-free status by 2020.
Recently, a Meeting on the Cross Border Collaboration for Malaria Elimination along the Indo-Bhutan Border was held in Guwahati. Bhutan–India border is 699 km long and adjoins the Indian states of Assam (267 km), Arunachal Pradesh (217 km), West Bengal (183 km), and Sikkim (32 km).
Rinzin Namgay, the head of a delegation from Bhutan, said that due to importation of malaria from other parts of India and the continuing transmission in the Indo-Bhutan border, the country may not be able to achieve malaria elimination by 2020 unless the malaria cases on the Indian side of the border are also eliminated. Bhutan registered 11 locally acquired cases in 2017 and 6 in 2018. As of September 2019, there were six locally acquired cases and 12 cases acquired from India.
Over 100 countries had already eliminated malaria. However, the risk of ‘resurgence and reestablishment’ runs high in many of them. Hence, India needs strong collaboration and people to people interaction at the local level across the international borders and with other sectors to make this sustainable in the long term.
The two countries have chalked out district-specific action plans for the 9 districts of India and 10 districts of Bhutan along with border. They have also decided to conduct key activities to be jointly undertaken to eliminate malaria along the Indo-Bhutan border.
The only way to accelerate and sustain malaria elimination is by real-time sharing of information, joint planning, and innovative approaches to delivering the interventions and synchronization of implementation of interventions across the Indo-Bhutan border.
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