Malaria not just public health issue but also political challenge: Mandaviya

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Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Monday said that Malaria is not just a public health issue but also social, economic and political challenge that requires the co-operation of all stakeholders. Mr Mandaviya was virtually addressing the Asia Pacific Leaders’ Conclave on Malaria Elimination on the pre-eve of World Malaria Day.

Health Minister said, “India was the only high-burden, high-impact country in the South- East Asia region to report a decline in malaria cases in 2020 as compared to 2019. India witnessed 85.1% decline in malaria cases and 83.36% decline in deaths during 2015-2022”.

The leaders from the Asia Pacific region discussed the ongoing efforts towards malaria elimination and to revitalize the national and regional momentum towards the goal of an Asia Pacific free from Malaria by 2030.

Addressing the significant challenge posed by malaria particularly to the marginalized and vulnerable communities, Dr. Mandaviya added, “rejuvenated political commitment and strengthened technical leadership will play a monumental role in eradicating malaria from the world”. Citing the transformational impact of India’s health initiatives such as Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY), Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres, and Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission as well as the substantial role of its healthcare workers, Dr. Mandaviya said “India is committed to sharing our resources, knowledge and learnings with other countries in our endeavour to eliminate Malaria.”

Dr. Manik Saha, Chief Minister of Tripura, Dr. R. Lalthamgliana, Minister, Health and Family Welfare Department, Mizoram, Dr. V.K Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog, and Dr Poonam Khetrepal, Regional Director, WHO-SEARO. Dr. Culwick Togamana, Minister of Health and Medical Services, Solomon Islands, Dr. Antonio Lalabalavu, Minister of Health and Medical Services, Republic of Fiji, H.E. Prof. Dr. Dante Saksoni Harbuwono, Vice Minister of Health, Republic of Indonesia, Dr. Zaliha Binti Mustafa, Minister of Health, Malaysia, H.E. Dr. Mao Tan Eang, Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Health, Kingdom of Combodia, Dr. Champa Aluthweera, Director, Anti Malaria Campaign, Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka, Dr Chuman Lal Das, Director, Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, Ministry of Health, Nepal, Dr Moh Moh Lwin, National Director, Myanmar were also present at the conclave.

Dr V.K Paul congratulated South Asian and Pacific Region countries in achieving significant decline in malaria cases and stressed on the goal to make malaria a history with a focus on working on most marginalized and vulnerable communities with an inter-sectoral approach. He highlighted the need for collaboration across borders while embracing whole-of-government and the whole-of-society’s approach.

“We can’t eliminate malaria till we work together across borders. We need to prioritize research & innovation, and encourage behavioral change research. We need to work tremendously in developing vaccine against malaria in order to have additional arms against Malaria.”

Advocating leveraging the use of digital tools for eliminating malaria, Dr. Paul stated, “We need to focus on high-burden areas and eliminate this disease with inter-sectoral collaboration which starts at village level.” Dr. Paul emphasized that urban areas with dense population, migrant population, areas inhabited by tribal population are some key challenging areas where we need to focus and work together as ‘One Team India’.