AT a time when the country’s efforts have been directed towards battling the Covid-19 pandemic and finding a vaccine for it, the observations by the World Health Organisation (WHO) about India making ‘impressive gains’ in the global fight against malaria will sound a bit out of place despite being encouraging. The context to it can possibly be found in India being part of a collective effort by countries in the Asia-Pacific region that had pledged to eliminate malaria by 2030. India, in fact, pledged to achieve this by 2027, three years ahead of schedule. The WHO also seems concerned that Covid-19 protocols should not undermine the policy on malaria in South-East Asia.
While the coronavirus outbreak was initially reported from all over the country, the incidence of malaria is generally confined to particular regions. Preventive measures, medication, surveillance, community participation and sustained efforts played a role in containing malarial outbreaks. Whether the country is able to script a similar success story against the coronavirus remains to be seen. Areas where malaria is endemic are said to be at risk of suffering from the consequences of Covid-19 due to similarity in side-effects.
Along with malaria, the country has striven to eliminate other diseases like polio. Pulse polio drops, administered across the country by health workers, were a reminder of our purposeful approach. The WHO’s observations should serve as a wake-up call not to relent in the fight to ensure overall healthcare. India has also been among the largest producers of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, recommended early on during the pandemic, but later ruled out by health experts. Preventive measures to check Covid-19 like maintaining hygiene and sanitation are also factors that help in checking the breeding of vectors that cause malaria. The WHO has been in the eye of a storm, being accused by the United States of favouring China. India, while heeding its advice, would do well to keep its own counsel and take steps in keeping with its own needs.