Commonwealth wants Modi’s commitment to beat malaria

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New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) With one in seven Indians at risk of contracting malaria and an unfortunate break in the “dramatic success” of the last decade, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment at the Commonwealth summit in London this week to beat the disease is eagerly awaited, say experts

“India is central to this achievement (eradication of malaria from Commonwealth countries). We look forward to hear the strategy India is working on to achieve its commitment of eliminating malaria by 2030,” said James Whiting, Executive Director, Malaria No More (MNM), UK.

Malaria is included as an issue in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London on April 19-20, which will be attended by Modi. A day before CHOGM on Wednesday, a Malaria Summit is being held to get political and financial commitments from the head of nations.

“We would also be looking forward to hear about the financing part of the Indian strategy to eradicate malaria,” Whiting told IANS. MNM is a global non-profit convening the campaign on behalf of the global malaria community and is registered as the Malaria Elimination Trust in India.

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According to government estimates, it will cost Rs 10,653 crore to eliminate malaria in India by 2030.

India has the third largest burden of malaria incidence in the world after Congo and Nigeria. In India, Odisha is the biggest victim of malaria constituting close to 41 per cent of India’s malaria incidence as of 2016, the NGO said in a statement.

According to the World Malaria Report 2017, 60 per cent of global malaria deaths in 2016 occurred in eight Commonwealth countries and 90 per cent of the Commonwealth population (2.4 billion or two-third of global population) lives in malaria affected countries.

“The malaria campaign has seen a dramatic success in the last 10-15 years both in India and globally,” said Whiting, adding that there has been a fall of 60 per cent in global malaria deaths since 2000 saving nearly seven million lives.

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In recent times, India has achieved remarkable progress in its fight against malaria as it has reduced its malaria burden by nearly half from two million cases in 2000 to one million cases in 2016, and malaria related deaths have gone down by two-thirds during this period.

However, for the first time in 15 years, progress towards ending the disease has stalled. The WHO’s malaria report confirmed cases and deaths are no longer falling. Malaria affected around 216 million people globally in 2016, an increase of five million cases over the previous year.

The MNM statement said: “Due to the nature of malaria, this fight can only go two ways: forwards or backwards. There is no standing still. We are currently on a cliff edge – continue to battle the disease or risk an acute and deadly resurgence.”

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And, precisely for this the pressing decision the heads of Commonwealth nations, most importantly India, face is to either continue towards ending the disease with renewed financial and political commitments or put the hard fought progress in jeopardy.

A total of 24 members of the Commonwealth are actively tackling the disease, 20 have eliminated malaria and eight have never had malaria. Sri Lanka and Maldives have already eliminated malaria and Malaysia hopes to eliminate by 2020, the MNM said.

“The Malaria Summit 2018 will discuss on the amount of money required to eliminate malaria and the smart new ways of spending that money including new ways of gathering the data. Tomorrow’s summit will be attended by 16 heads of state,” said Whiting.

–IANS

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