World Malaria Day today 2021 brings with it a ray of hope for eradicating the disease. The first malaria vaccine to show more than 75% efficacy has been developed by scientists at the University of Oxford, according to The Lancet journal. This is a medical breakthrough and crosses the goal specified by the World Health Organization. Called R21, the new malaria vaccine is 77% effective against malaria, according to the study. The Serum Institute of India has agreed to make the malaria vaccine once it is approved. The malaria vaccine will next start broad clinical trials in 4,800 children across four African countries.
What is World Malaria Day?
World Malaria Day is an occasion to highlight the need for continued investment and sustained political commitment for malaria prevention and control. It was instituted by the WHO Member States during the World Health Assembly of 2007.
According to the latest World malaria report, released on 30 November 2020, there were 229 million cases of malaria in 2019 compared to 228 million cases in 2018. The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 409,000 in 2019, compared with 411,000 deaths in 2018. Children under 5 years of age are the most vulnerable group affected by malaria; in 2019, they accounted for 67% (274,000) of all malaria deaths worldwide.
Malaria elimination is defined as the interruption of local transmission of a specified malaria parasite species in a defined geographical area as a result of deliberate activities. Continued measures are required to prevent re-establishment of transmission. Malaria eradication is defined as the permanent reduction to zero of the worldwide incidence of malaria infection caused by human malaria parasites as a result of deliberate activities. Interventions are no longer required once eradication has been achieved.
Globally, the elimination net is widening, with more countries moving towards the goal of zero malaria. In 2019, 27 countries reported fewer than 100 indigenous cases of the disease, up from 6 countries in 2000. Countries that have achieved at least 3 consecutive years of 0 indigenous cases of malaria are eligible to apply for the WHO certification of malaria elimination. Over the last two decades, 11 countries have been certified by the WHO Director-General as malaria-free.
India has made considerable progress with a significant reduction in malaria over the last few years due to interventions for case management and vector control. Yet, there is a long road ahead for achieving complete victory. The Government of India has targeted to eliminate malaria from India by 2030 through the National Framework for Malaria Elimination.
Top CSR initiatives to eliminate malaria from India
Here are the major CSR programmes working towards the goal of eliminating malaria in India.
GCPL – EMBED (Elimination of Mosquito-Borne Endemic Diseases)
On April 25, 2017, World Malaria Day, GCPL (Godrej Consumer Products Ltd) committed to supporting a malaria-free India by 2030 and commissioned Project EMBED, which aims to reduce morbidity and mortality caused by vector-borne diseases. The project focuses on behaviour change campaigns, imparting education and conducting awareness activities for communities at the bottom of the pyramid to be empowered to take charge of their own protection.
In its first phase, EMBED covered 207 villages across 2 districts, Mandla and Dindori, in Madhya Pradesh, a state with one of the highest burdens of malaria in India. Within a year, there was a 2% increase in testing for malaria, 11% increase in use of mosquito repellents or bed nets, and 80% of the villages reported a reduced malaria burden. In its second phase, the project was extended to 7 additional districts, covering 1,300 villages and 2,00,000 households across Jhabua, Sheopur, Shivpuri, Sidhi, Singrauli, Alirajpur and Balaghat with high malaria burdens. By March 2019, 81% of the villages reported zero cases of malaria and there was a 21% increase in the use of mosquito repellents or bed nets.
GCPL announced in 2019 that it has expanded the CSR project further to Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh. EMBED will cover 200 villages in the Bastar and Kondagaon districts of Chhattisgarh and 200 villages in the Bareily and Badaun districts of Uttar Pradesh. This expansion will impact 1,50,000 people at risk from malaria.
EMBED has been developed in line with the National Framework for Malaria Elimination (NFME) 2016-2030, which outlines India’s agenda to eliminate the disease by 2030. The project also collaborates with the government on environment management and vector control activities as part of Swachh Bharat.
Tata Trusts – South Odisha Initiative
The Tata Trusts’ South Odisha Initiative aims to reduce deaths due to malaria by 100% and the incidence of the disease by at least 40%. The CSR initiative focuses on parasite and vector control through routine surveillance screening, and provides residual sprays, mosquito nets, etc, to the vulnerable population. The Trusts’ interventions, in partnership with the Government of Odisha, and with the help of implementation partner, Livolink Foundation, cover 20,000 households in a cluster of 547 villages.
Tata Trusts provide frontline workers with portable microscopes to test for suspected cases of malaria. Vector control involves the removal of mosquito sites, door-to-door distribution of residual spray and mosquito nets, critical components of malaria prevention. The Trusts conduct school and village-level campaigns to promote awareness of the disease and its causal agents. These campaigns also introduce behavioural change to the community so as to reduce the incidence of the disease. The initiative has reduced cases significantly in the region.
Sun Pharma – Malaria Elimination Demonstration Project
The Foundation for Disease Elimination and Control of India (FDEC India), has been established by Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Limited, as part of its CSR. Malaria Elimination Demonstration Project (MEDP) is a Public Private Partnership between FDEC India, the Indian Council of Medical Research, and the Government of Madhya Pradesh. All three partner organisations share resources and responsibilities that contribute towards the success of the MEDP project.
The support Sun Pharma receives from the National Vector Borne Disease Control Program (NVBDCP) and the inter-sectorial participation of local panchayats, civil society and other departments of the government contribute towards the accomplishment of goal – to eliminate malaria in the Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh.
Mandla was chosen because of the experience and knowledge of the National Institute for Research in Tribal Health (NIRTH) in parasitological, entomological, community-based field investigations, drug treatment, and malaria control and elimination. It presents FDEC India with opportunities to learn lessons in epidemiologic, demographic and social sciences for state and national malaria elimination programmes.
Within 24 months of operations, FDEC India achieved 83% reduction in indigenous cases in the entire district and 90% reduction in high endemic blocks. The CSR project won the Mahatma Award for Social Good 2019 on the 150th Birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
With public-private partnerships such as these, India is well on its way to eradicating malaria by the year 2030.