14 million extra malaria instances worldwide in 2020; India Sustainable Burden of Illness Discount: WHO

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Around 14 million more cases of malaria and 69,000 more deaths were reported worldwide in 2020 than in 2019, and India was the only high-pollution country to see a reduction in the burden of disease, according to a WHO report. However, it stated that the decline in the disease in India was slower than it was before the pandemic, as the country still shares over 80 percent of Southeast Asia’s malaria burden.

The World Malaria Report 2021, published by the World Health Organization (WHO), highlighted the devastating malaria that continues to wreak havoc on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

It also highlighted significant gaps in malaria funding, as demand for sustained advances rose to $ 6.8 billion last year, with only marginal increases in malaria funding.

In the Southeast Asia region, malaria funding per person at risk is lower in India than in neighboring countries, the report said.

“In 2020, an estimated 14 million more cases and 69,000 more deaths were caused by malaria compared to 2019. India was the only high-pollution country to make progress in sustained malaria reduction between 2019 and 2020, which was slower than before the pandemic, “the WHO report said.

“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, global gains against malaria had flattened out,” said WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement.

In addition to stagnating investments, a sharp decline in malaria tests and gaps in mosquito control measures contributed to the foiled progress in the highly polluted countries, according to the World Malaria Report 2021.

Of the 31 countries that planned insecticide-treated mosquito net campaigns in 2020, only 18 had completed their campaigns by the end of the year.

Devastated by the pandemic, India only managed to meet 50 percent of its planned distribution of long-life insecticide nets and had also seen a reduction in other measures such as residual indoor spray in 2020, the report said.

“The numbers and trends are deeply worrying as the countries hardest hit by malaria saw a reversal of last year’s gains,” said Dr. Kaushik Sarkar, Director of the Institute for Malaria and Climate Solutions and Executive Director of Malaria No More India.

“India, a global leader in the progress made in the fight against malaria in recent years, has been able to sustainably reduce the number of malaria cases. But the stagnant progress on the pandemic-related disorder reflects the urgency of building India’s robust Covid surveillance infrastructure and capacity to fight febrile diseases like malaria, “he said.

At the same time, India needs to focus on bridging the gap between the demand and supply of vector control tools, said Dr. Sarkar.

“With greater autonomy and frugal innovation, it is time the country changed gears in the fight against malaria to make the next five years the last five years of malaria,” he added.

The WHO report states that despite the powerful impact of the pandemic, heroic efforts by countries, partners and community health workers with innovative strategies, strong political will and the mobilization of new funding were vital to address the worst-case scenario to avoid.

Despite the challenges, countries and partners ensured that 72 percent of life-saving insecticide-treated grid distribution programs were in place by 2020. Seasonal malaria chemoprevention also reached over 33 million children, more than ever, it said.

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