Anti-malaria drive

The government is launching an anti-malaria drive to bring down the prevalence rate of disease by half by the end of 2007. In Nepal, the malarial parasite is active in 65 districts, of which 12 are in severe category. The drive, in its first phase, will target Jhapa, Kailali and Kanchanpur before it is extended to nine other districts. The project will mobilise resources for distribution of mosquito nets to some 240,000 people besides conducting tests prior to a massive two-week treatment programme.

Use of insecticides alone is not enough to make the anti-malaria drive a success. The problem of water logging in towns and villages leading to stagnant water bodies and reservoirs for nurseries that are fertile grounds of mosquito breeding must first be addressed. It is important to break the vector’s reproductive cycle, which can be done by freeing the surroundings of stagnant water bodies or by treating ponds and pools with proper chemicals. Surroundings favourable to mosquito breeding have rendered many an anti-malaria drive ineffective. It must be clearly understood that eradicating a disease prevalent in 65 districts is no child’s play. This initiative must encourage local participation through awareness programmes. Also imperative is the requirement to keep the surroundings free from stagnant water bodies. No other tool can prove more effective.

Malaria, along with tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, happens to be one of the biggest killers. The Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria envisages fighting all three, and in Nepal, the UNDP is the management support agency for the project. It surely is a worthwhile target to aim at to bring down the prevalent rate by 50 per cent in a couple of years. Another indispensable tool for this is awareness campaign. Only then can insecticides and sterilised nets prove useful. Areas adjacent to Koshi barrage, for example, are water logged and festooned with puddles. This incidentally happens to be a high malaria prevalence zone. But after all is said and done the 2007 target must not flounder because on it depends a lot. Additional efforts to back up the present one will have to be readied in the mean time to give continuity to the programme. There is no shortcut to malaria eradication.