NINETY-THREE per cent of the malaria patients coming from three hill districts — Bandarban, Rangamati and Khagrachari — as the National Malaria Elimination Programme says, comes to be concerning in that it suggests a decline in the government’s efforts to eliminate malaria. Death caused by malaria stood at 45 in 2014; the figure then declined to nine in 2015 and then its rose to 17 in 2016 and declined again to 13 in 2017, as New Age reported on Wednesday. But the data suggests that there have been problems with the government’s malaria elimination initiatives. Malaria is still seen as a major public health concern as it has been prevalent in 71 upazilas of 13 districts — Rangamati, Khagrachari, Bandarban, Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong, Sunamganj, Moulvibazar, Sylhet, Habiganj, Netrakona, Mymensingh, Sherpur and Kurigram — with the three hill districts coming atop the table. Government data shows that malaria death reduced in recent times because of collaborative efforts and effective measures that both government and non-governmental actors took but the diseases has still not been eliminated. Such a situation suggests that the government should put in more efforts in areas identified to achieve its goal of a total malaria elimination by 2030.
Directorate general of health services officials say that the major challenges to malaria elimination are the shortage of physicians and healthcare service professionals in remote areas which limit the capacity for treatment and healthcare service delivery. Other major that contribute to the high incidence of malaria, especially in the areas identified, as officials and experts seek to say, are hilly frontiers, profuse rainfall, large forest areas, inadequate healthcare system and problems in reaching treatment and other healthcare services to people who need them because the areas are hard-to-reach. When the problems and their causes have been identified, it is easy to take up plans to resolve the problem. What the government needs to do is to involve non-governmental actors in the process and have a comprehensive plan in place to fill in the gaps that have surfaced. Added to this has been another concern — a probable outbreak of malaria in the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar — which might also overshadow the success that the government has so far made in malaria elimination. The government is reported to have taken up an initiative to distribute 3,33,000 mosquito nets in the hill districts and in Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar. But the initiative seems to be inadequate given the number of people who live there. Supplies need to be stepped up as the monsoon has almost set in, adding to the risk of malaria.
The government, under the circumstances, must work out a comprehensive plan for the three hill districts and the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar in the short run to stop any probable outbreak of malaria. But the government, at the same time, must work on malaria incidence in 10 other districts that have been identified.
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