World Malaria Day

ED NOTE: For World Malaria Day today, I thought I would re-post this item I wrote last month about Bangladesh’s successful intervention against Malaria. Stay tuned for more World Malaria Day coverage here in Dispatch.

Kawkhali Upazilla, Bangladesh:  Welcome to malaria country. About 80% of all Malaria cases in Bangladesh come from the rural hilly tracks of south-east Bangladesh.  It extracts a terrible toll on the people here who by and large make their living in farming and other labor intensive pursuits.

The death rate is relatively low, but the economic and physical toll can be devastating. “They cannot work,“ says AkramMul Islam the program head for health programs at the NGO the Bangladesh Rural Action Committee. (BRAC) “And if it goes untreated they can get multiple attacks and lose the ability to generate income.”

In 2007, the Bangladesh received a $45 million grant from the Global Fund to Fight Aids Tuberculosis and Malaria to control malaria in this region.  This included a goal of delivering a bed net to every family in the very poorest townships and developing a system of diagnosing and treating the disease with anti-retro viral drugs.   Here in Kawkhali Upazilla, which has a population of about 61,400 people, the results have been dramatic.  In 2007 there were 8,003 cases of Malaria. In 2008 that figure dropped to 5,510, then to 1,297 in 2009 and 400 last year.

Graph: Malaria cases in Kawkhali Upazilla since the Global Fund intervention

The bed net distribution program has been key. For the most part, the nets in use require retreatment with insecticide every six months.  The next round of Global Fund grants will replace those nets with long lasting insecticide treated nets (the kind purchased by our friends at Nothing But Nets) which require retreatment every three years as opposed to every six months.   That grant, worth approximately $40 million over 5 years, will enable the scaling up of this malaria intervention program to cover 100% of the entire region.  Right now, programs like the one in Kawkhali Upazilla only covers about 40% of the people living in the malaria endemic region.

That means two bed nets for every household in south eastern Bangladesh and expanding access to diagnostic and treatment programs to 1.3 million people. Considering the results  in Kawkhali Upazilla, the potential for success would seem to be quite high.

Treating a bed net with insecticide. (Photo by Thierry Falise/The Global Fund.)