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Sri Lanka certified malaria-free: How the country won war against the disease

It is the second country to eradicate malaria in the region after Maldives, which has been free of the disease since 1984.

world Updated: Sep 05, 2016 17:39 IST
Sanchita Sharma
A municipal worker in Mumbai fumigates a residential colony. Indian cities learn from Sri Lanka in swatting malaria.
A municipal worker in Mumbai fumigates a residential colony. Indian cities learn from Sri Lanka in swatting malaria.(Kalpak Pathak/ HT file photo)

Sri Lanka was declared malaria-free on Monday and will get a certificate from the World Health Organization on September 6.

It is the second country to eradicate malaria in the region after Maldives, which has been free of the disease since 1984.

The last locally-transmitted case in Sri Lanka was in October 2012, with the island nation bringing down malaria from 264,549 cases cases in 1999 to zero in November 2012.

The certification will done at the 69th session of Regional Committee For South East Asia in Colombo.

Malaria is a parasitic disease transmitted to people through the bite of infected female anopheles mosquitoes. Symptoms include fever, headache, chills and vomiting.

How Sri Lanka won the war against malaria

Web-based surveillance: All fever cases were tested for malaria and each case notified with the Anti ‘Malaria Campaign at the ministry of health. People with a travel history to countries with malaria transmission were closely tracked for symptoms, as were people in the armed forces on peacekeeping missions, immigrants, emigrants, tourists and pilgrims.

Rationing medicines: Anti-malarial medicines were only available with the AMC, which compelled the private health sector to notify all cases. With malaria cases sharply falling, it soon became unprofitable for the private sector to stock anti-malarial medicines.

24x7 hotline: AMC ran a 24-hour hotline to notify, track and treat the patient in isolation to stop further spread of infection.

Parasite-control strategy: In the early1990s, the AMC changed from vector-control (mosquito control) to parasite control strategy to contain infection. From 1999 onwards, cases have steadily declined and by 2008, less than 1,000 cases were being reported per year.

Health access: A strong public health system, sanitation and roads lowered mosquito breeding and took treatment to people in the remotest of places. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment by trained health workers with focus on high-risk areas lowered disease and deaths.

Stakeholder partnerships: Intensive disease surveillance, integrated vector management, rigorous community engagement and research increased social, technical and financial support for eradication.