New Delhi: India is one of 15 countries in the world to have the highest cases and deaths of malaria, the World Health Organisation's 2017 World Malaria Report revealed on Wednesday.
The report put India along with 14 countries from the Sub Saharan African region, with 80 percent of the world’s cases and deaths.
Nigeria bore the highest burden in the world, as it topped these 15 countries with 30 percent of the deaths. India was fourth with 7 percent of deaths, after Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (14 percent) and Burkina Faso (seven percent).
Globally, 2016 saw 216 million cases and 445,000 deaths, as compared to 2015’s 211 million cases and 4,46,000 deaths. The four countries account for 58 percent of these deaths.
Though there has been a decline in the rate of incidences from 2010 to 2016, from 76 down to 63 cases per 1000 population at risk, India’s numbers remain a problem due to alarmingly low surveillance. India had 649 million population at risk in 2010 and reported 1018 deaths. Now, it has 698 million population at risk with 331 reported deaths. Far from being good news, this number further indicated that cases were simply not being reported in the country.
The WHO report states that India, along with Nigeria, despite being a high disease burden country, has the lowest rate of malaria cases caught by its surveillance programme only 8 percent. India's lost malaria cases and untrustworthy government data is old news.
A 2010 Reuters report quoted a paper from The Lancet, saying, malaria killed close to 2, 05,000 people annually in India, 13 times even the WHO estimate of 15000. Though the WHO had rejected the paper's reasoning, a January, 2016, investigation by Aljazeera America, threw light on how India's reported deaths (561 in 2015, the year of reporting) could not possibly be true. The investigation showed how data, mostly recorded with pencils, was fudged at the grassroots level and how malaria was often not written down as the cause of death in autopsies.
India is the poorest performer in the South East Asian region (SEAR). The number of cases in it highest endemic state, Odisha, shot up in 2016, doubling the number from 2013. Meanwhile, neighbouring Sri Lanka was declared malaria free in 2016 by the WHO, as was Kyrgyzstan.
India also had the lowest funding average per person at risk, from 2014 to 2016 in the region. While it's on track to reduce malaria cases by 20 to 40 percent by 2020, most other SEAR countries will hit over 40 percent reduction.