Nepal seeks India’s help to eliminate malaria infectionsRequest comes as most of the imported cases of the disease are from India.
Nepal has committed to reducing indeginious malaria cases to zero by the end of this year in its bid to meet the elimination target of the disease by 2025.
But the problem is imported cases of the said disease especially from India are so high that officials fear such cases could lead to local transmission, which means the elimination target will not be met.
To minimise imported cases of malaria in the country, the Ministry of Health and Population has sought help from India for intervention measures to lessen the malaria infection.
Officials at the Health Ministry said that they held meetings with Indian officials and drew their attention to the growing number of imported malaria cases in Nepal.
“I am just back after taking part in a meeting held in Lucknow [India],” Dr Chuman Lal Das, director at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, said. “We have agreed to share information on malaria cases between the two countries and make intervention measures effective.”
Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites. Infected female Anopheles mosquitoes carry these deadly parasites, according to the World Health Organisation.
Nepal is one of the member countries of the UN health body’s E-2025 group that have the potential to eliminate the disease by 2025. In April 2021, the UN health agency launched the E-2025 initiative to halt the transmission of malaria in 25 identified countries by 2025.
India is on the list of countries, which has committed to eliminating the disease by 2030–five years later than Nepal.
To earn malaria-free status in 2026, Nepal needs to bring down indigenous cases or local transmission of the disease to zero by the end of 2022 and sustain zero cases for three consecutive years, according to the World Health Organisation.
International experts will carry out a final verification after completion of the process of declaring the country free of malaria.
Certification of malaria elimination is the official recognition by the WHO about a country's malaria-free status.
Officials at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division said that imported cases of malaria are a biggest challenge in the bid to achieve the target.
According to the data provided by the division, 391 cases of malaria have been detected throughout the country. Of them 359 were imported cases and of the total imported cases, 336 were from India.
“Some people returning from the Middle-East and the African continent are also found infected with malaria, but cases of infection are higher among those returning from India,” Dr Gokarna Dahal, a senior official at the division, said.
Malaria-related deaths had stopped since 2016 but five years later in 2021, the country recorded one death from the disease.
Officials said that the 2021 case was responsible for indeginious cases of malaria in Nepal.
“We have requested officials of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh to step up measures to control malaria and have also requested for coordination with officials of other Indian states to control the disease,” said Dahal. “We have informed them that malaria has been found in some migrant workers returning from Maharashtra and Rajasthan of India and called for necessary measures to curb the cases.”
The Health Ministry said that rapid diagnostic test kits have been supplied to the health desks set up at border crossings with India and in most of the state-run health facilities throughout the country.
Experts say that even if the number of indigenous cases of malaria are low, imported cases, which are beyond Nepal’s control, can still cause local transmission.
The World Health Organisation says that malaria epidemics can occur when climate and other conditions favour transmission in areas where people have little or no immunity to malaria.