The resurgence of malaria in some Asian and African countries has become a matter of concern for governments and doctors, as the disease and the mosquitoes that carry it are increasingly developing resistance to the traditional methods of control.
Reports from Brazil and South-East Asia, in particular, show that insecticides like DDT no longer work, and some of the bacteria which mosquitoes inject into the patients' blood have become immune to drugs like chloroquine. So the number of deaths and debilitations caused by malaria has been on the rise in some third world countries.
Many countries have stepped up their anti-malaria campaigns, some of which had stopped in the 1960s. The remarkable success of DDT (when first used) against malaria bearing (female anopheles) mosquitoes gave the authorities the false hope that the disease could be eradicated. But both the insects and the bacteria have a surprising ability to develop resistance against drugs and insecticides.
That is why more and more attention is today being given to the possibility of tackling malaria by preventing the breeding of mosquitoes and adopting other mechanisms to protect the people from mosquito attacks.
In some developing countries, both adults and children are given training on how to reduce breeding sites, and to monitor and also identify mosquitoes in their areas.
Meanwhile, the first World Malaria Day on April 25 was observed in our country as elsewhere across the globe to create awareness among the people about the preventable disease which claims at least 500 lives and affects more than 60,000 people in Bangladesh annually. Malaria claims at least one million lives annually all over the world.
The day was observed through discussions, rallies and dramas to create awareness among the people about the disease, and about measures for prevention and early detection.
The outbreak of malaria in our country is the highest in 70 upazilas of 13 districts with a population of about 10.9 million. Most malaria affected people are in the districts of Rangamati, Bandarban, Khagrachari, Cox's Bazar, Chittagong, Netrokona, Mymensingh, Habiganj, Moulvibazar, Sylhet, Sunamganj, Sherpur and Kurigram.
According to Shaheen Akhter, a consultant under Global Fund for HIV/AIDS/TB and Malaria (GFATB), the government has started a program that aims at reducing malaria by 50% by the year 2012. Five lakh long-lasting insecticide treatable mosquito nets were distributed among the ultra poor people in malaria prone districts last year. The number will be increased to seven lakh, she said.
It is alleged that some of these nets have been found in the houses of comparatively privileged people. According to Shaheen Akhter the allegations are not without basis. Steps are being taken so that the nets reach the target groups for whom they are meant, she said.
According to Dr. A Raqib, Deputy Program Manager, Malaria Control Program under GFATM, Bangadesh, as a part of five-year program, has received $40 million, which is being channeled through government agencies and NGOs like Brac.
According to him, the government and the NGOs have been working to promote quality diagnosis and effective treatment to at least 80% of the malaria cases. The government agencies and NGOs are engaged in promoting use of long-lasting insecticide treatable mosquito nets and creating awareness among the people as preventive measures. Under GFATM, steps are being taken for strengthening program management capacity, and coordination and partnership in malaria control, he said.
Rapid diagnostic test is gradually being made available in rural areas in the malaria prone districts, where one field health worker has been assigned to look after 5000-7000 people. According to Shaheen Akhter, under the GFATM, some NGOs have been tasked with setting up microscopic laboratories (diagnostic centers) in remote areas for quick detection through proper diagnosis so that malaria patients can get timely treatment.
A couple of decades ago a Chinese doctor named Dr. Li invented a new cure, which does not have any side effects, for this deadly disease. Dr. Li Guqiao was the son of a traditional doctor, and deputy president of Canton College of Traditional Chinese medicine. He and his group reportedly discovered Ginghaosu's (active principle of the green herb) potential for preventing malarial infection.