India, Bhutan mull strategy to eradicate malaria

From Our Correspondent

GUWAHATI: India and Bhutan have underlined the need for joint district-level action to eradicate malaria in both the countries that share long international boundary. A meeting on the ‘Cross Border Collaboration for Malaria Elimination along the Indo-Bhutan Border’ was held here during the last couple of days.
The meeting was attended by international malaria experts from World Health Organisation (WHO), representatives from Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and West Bengal, officials from Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, officials from the Bhutan, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and the bordering districts of Bhutan and India.
Rekha Shukla, Joint Secretary, MoHFW, India, acknowledged that while India made massive improvement in reducing malaria, more needs to be done to accelerate and sustain the progress and contribute towards eliminating the disease in Bhutan as well as other bordering countries.
She emphasized the importance of strong collaboration and people-to-people interaction at local level across the international borders and with other sectors.
Rinzin Namgay, the head of Bhutan delegation, stated that his country aimed to eliminate malaria by 2020 and has only 11 locally acquired cases in 2017 and 6 in 2018. As of September 2019, there were 6 locally acquired cases and 12 cases acquired from India. 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 cases on the Indian side of the border are also eliminated.
At the end of the two-day meeting, both sides developed district-specific action plans for the 9 and 10 districts of India and Bhutan respectively. They also agreed on key activities to be jointly undertaken to eliminate malaria along the Indo-Bhutan border.
Neeraj Dhingra, Director, NVBDCP, MoHFW welcomed all participants and provided an overview on the progress towards malaria elimination in India by 2030. “Malaria cases in the country have reduced from over 1 million in 2018 to around 419,000 in 2018. The country aims to achieve zero indigenous case by 2027, sustain it thereafter and secure malaria-free certification by WHO in 2030. He expressed appreciation to WHO for supporting and coordinating the meeting between India and Bhutan,” she said.
The meeting, which was supported by the World Health Organisation, had 28 participants from India, 10 from Bhutan and 4 technical staff from WHO India, SEARO and Global Malaria Program, Geneva.
Malaria program officials from national, state and from districts on both sides of Indo-Bhutan border provided updates on malaria situation in their respective areas and the key activities being carried out.

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