The World Health Organisation South-East Asia Region continues to make rapid and sustained progress towards achieving zero malaria cases and zero malaria deaths, in accordance with WHO's Global Technical Strategy for Malaria and the Region's 2017 Ministerial Declaration on Accelerating and Sustaining Malaria Elimination.

The region, which comprises 11 countries, including Nepal, reduced the estimated malaria cases and deaths by 74 per cent and 76 per cent, respectively between 2010 and 2019.

In 2019, India reported the reduction of malaria cases by 60 per cent compared to 2017 and by 21 per cent compared to 2018. Between 2018 and 2019, DPR Korea and Nepal reported reduction in malaria cases by 49 per cent each. Amid the ongoing COVID-19 response, Maldives and Sri Lanka remain malaria-free, and Bhutan, DPR Korea, Nepal and Timor-Leste continue to record zero indigenous malaria deaths.

All countries in the region are working to reduce cases of malaria and subsequent deaths by more than 40 per cent by 2020 compared to 2015, according to a press release issued by New Delhi-based WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia on the occasion of World Malaria Day.

This year's World Malaria Day has focused on creating a malaria-free future with zero malaria cases and zero malaria deaths.

Globally, 38 countries have now achieved malaria-free status.

Between 2000 and 2019, the number of countries with fewer than 100 indigenous malaria cases increased from six to 27. "In South-East Asia region, Maldives and Sri Lanka have shown that achieving and maintaining malaria elimination is possible, but is dependent on sustaining high-level commitment.

DPR Korea and Thailand are now set to join Bhutan, Nepal and Timor-Leste in the global 'E-2025' initiative, which provides targeted support to the selected countries in a bid to overcome last-mile elimination challenges," read the release.

According to WHO, it will continue to provide support to countries in the region to maintain essential health services to eradicate diseases, including malaria in the midst of a new wave of COVID-19.

All countries in the region have accorded priority to health personnel in vaccine roll-outs so as to ensure that they have access to preventive interventions and antimalarial treatment. Surveillance must continue across the region in a bid to prevent malaria from gaining a foothold in areas and countries.

"Mobile populations are at high risk of malaria and are more likely to have inadequate access to health services.

Cross-border collaboration that maps population mobility and strengthens data exchange will help policy makers on both sides drive coordinated progress and prevent setbacks.

Sustainable domestic financing models need to be implemented.

For this, each country should carry out detailed needs assessment. Policy makers must continue to enhance and streamline governance in an appropriate fashion and integrate malaria programme functions into existing health system functions," read the release.

As per WHO, the countries must remain vigilant and strengthen programmes as part of the COVID-19 response and continue to make commitment at the high-level political, scientific and public health levels in a bid to eliminate malaria once and for all.

On World Malaria Day, WHO reiterated its commitment to support all the countries in the region to achieve these objectives and accelerate towards a future with zero malaria cases and zero malaria deaths, for the health, well-being and sustainable development of all.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 26, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.