Bangladesh has reached the elimination stage of deadly malaria disease as the numbers of malaria infection cases and deaths from the disease have declined remarkably.
Health and family welfare ministry sources said the country is going ahead to achieve its target of becoming a malaria-free country by 2030 as the annual malaria infection rate has declined by 94 percent.
The number of malaria cases has declined while the number of deaths caused by the deadly disease has also declined by 93 percent annually in the country, the sources added.
“Bangladesh is already staying at elimination stage of malaria transmission,” Prof Dr Md Nazmul Islam, director (Disease Control) of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), told the Daily Sun.
He said there is no indigenous malaria case in 10 malaria-prone districts, except some infection cases outside, while the number of malaria cases has declined in hill tracts area remarkably.
Dr Nazmul Islam said the government wants to achieve its target of making the country malaria-free by 2030 and activities continue in full swing in this regard.
According to the DGHS, out of five malaria-endemic districts in Chattogram division, the Chattogram, Bandarban and Cox’s Bazar districts reported a higher number of malaria cases while Bandarban is the most endemic area for the malaria disease in the country.
“Of the total malaria cases in the country, 85 percent cases are reported in Bandarban district only as the three hill districts --Bandarban, Khagrachhari and Rangamati -- are malaria-prone areas,” Dr Ekramul Haque, Deputy Programme Manager (Malaria & Aedes Transmitted Disease) of the DGHS, said.
The DGHS data said out of 64 districts, malaria is endemic in 72 upazilas of 13 districts with variable transmission potentials.
The 13 districts are Kurigram, Sherpur, Mymensingh, Netrokona, Sunamganj, Sylhet, Moulvibazar, Habiganj, Khagrachhari, Rangamati, Chattogram, Bandarban and Cox’s Bazar.
However, 51 districts of the country are already declared malaria free as no malaria case is found there.
“Of the 13 districts, the number of malaria cases has declined remarkably in 11 districts, except the three hill districts,” Dr Ekramul Haque told the Daily Sun.
The DGHS data said 18,195 malaria infection cases were detected and 14 of them died in the country in 2022. Of the total infection cases, 11,485 were male and 6,710, including 67 pregnant women, were female. And 13,269 malaria infected patients were above 15 years.
It said, 7,294 malaria cases were detected and nine patients died in the country in 2021. Of the total, only 10 malaria cases were found in eight districts in 2021.
The DGHS data further said 84,690 malaria cases were recorded in 2008 while the cases decreased to 6,130 in 2020. It said a total of 2,40,459 malaria cases were detected in the country from 2013 to 2022.
Bangladesh implemented its National Strategic Plan 2017-2021 to ensure a malaria-free country by 2030. Now, another National Strategic Plan 2021-2025 has been taken to achieve the goal of eliminating malaria from the country, a DGHS official said.
According to the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), the government is likely to declare around eight districts of Sylhet and Mymensingh divisions, including Habiganj, Moulvibazar, Sunamganj and Sylhet and around 20 upazilas, as malaria free areas this year.
The government also has planned to declare 51 more upazilas in 2023 and districts of Chattogram division, including Cox’s Bazar, malaria-free by 2025, while the disease will be eliminated from the three CHT districts by 2030, the NMCP sources added.
“We have been successful in bringing down the zero malaria fatality in around ten districts. In some districts of Sylhet and Mymensingh zone, the malaria fatality is zero in the last around 14 years,” Ekramul Haque of the DGHS said.
He said under the NMCP, around 85 percent of the total cases are identified on the spot from the field in community and the rest are identified in hospitals and health complexes.
In 2022, some 15,253 malaria infected patients were detected from field while 2,942 were identified in hospitals, the health directorate sources said.
Ekramul Haque further said severe malaria cases have also declined to 3 percent in the country. “Notable progress in declining the malaria related deaths has been achieved during 2008-2022.”
He said the government has been providing 99.9 percent mosquito net with malaria preventing insecticide in the malaria-prone areas.
Though the malaria is a deadly disease, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has already approved a vaccine against the disease, but the Bangladesh government has no plan to bring the malaria vaccine yet in the country.
“We have no plan yet in this regard as we have already been able to make most of the malaria-prone districts as malaria-free areas,” Dr Nazmul Islam of the DGHS said.
The WHO recommends that in the context of comprehensive malaria control, the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine be used for the prevention of P. falciparum malaria in children living in regions with moderate to high transmission.