The Elimination of Malaria from India: A Case of When

posted in: malaria awareness, research | 0

Kerre Ann Willsher, PhD

In January 2023, I had the privilege to travel to India as part of the Mega Polio campaign. Covid 19 has caused immunization campaigns and disease management projects in India to be postponed or cancelled, creating anxiety about the return of previously eliminated diseases, and the likelihood of outbreaks of diseases such as Malaria.  India’s status of having eliminated Polio is observed with caution, nonetheless, there have been no new cases of Polio since 2011 (Summan et al., 2023).

I received medical advice to take an anti-malarial for the duration of the trip. Whilst in India I took the opportunity to research India’s progress in eliminating Malaria. India is planning to eliminate Malaria by 2030 (Kaul, 2023). According to the 2021 World Health Organization (WHO) World Malaria Report (2022), India which is the highest-burdened country in the WHO South-East Asia Region, with  79% of all Malaria cases, made progress towards elimination despite Covid 19. Also, approximately 83% of all Malaria deaths in the region were reported in India (World Health Organization, 2022).

Figure 1: India has the highest percentage of Malaria cases in the WHO South-East Asia Region (WHO, 2022, p.21)

However, Covid 19 is not the only challenge in eliminating Malaria, India like many countries experiences problems with varied patterns of disease transmission due to climate variability, resistance to anti-malarials and insecticides, poor surveillance, economic constraints, lack of collaboration, and open borders providing a route for resistant Malaria parasites and resistant Anopheles mosquito species to enter the country (Wangdi et al., 2016).  India has a large population with the majority living in urban areas, several languages are spoken.  

Spraying mosquitos in Kolkata, India with the aim of preventing Malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases. Note that the workers are not wearing protective clothing. Photo courtesy of iStock.

The WHO World Malaria Report (2022) reported that India had over a 40% lower Malaria case incidence and over a 40% decline in Malaria mortality rate in 2021  compared with 2015. At this stage, India is on track to eliminate Malaria by 2030. India’s population is 1,415,829,520 (Worldometer., 2023), IMAGINE another billion and a half cases of Malaria prevented. There would be a big hole in the Malaria map.

Map courtesy of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed in 2020. *The map is an approximation as there are areas within many countries where Malaria does not occur, or elimination is taking place. China eliminated Malaria after 2020. It will be good to see India “turn blue”.

Thanks goes to Dr Jenny Kerrison for reviewing this blog and making recommendations.

Kaul, R. (2023). India looks set to achieve 2030 malaria elimination target. Hindustan Times.

Summan, A., Nandi, A., Shet, A., & Laxminarayan, R. (2023). The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on routine childhood immunization coverage and timeliness in India: retrospective analysis of the National Family Health Survey of 2019–2021 data. The Lancet Regional Health – Southeast Asia, 8.

Wangdi, K.,. , Gatton, M. L., Kelly, G. C., & et .al. (2016). Malaria elimination in India and regional implications. Lancet Infect Dis 2016, 16, e214-e224.

World Health Organization. (2022). World malaria report 2021.

Worldometer. (2023). India Population (Live). United Nations Statistics and Specialized Agencies Programmes.