World Malaria Day, which takes place on 25 April each year, is an internationally recognized day, highlighting the global efforts to control malaria and celebrating the gains that have been made. Since 2000, the world has made historic progress against malaria, saving millions of lives. However, half the world still lives at risk from this preventable, treatable disease, which costs a child’s life every two minutes.
Nepal’s malaria control programme began in 1954, mainly in the Tarai belt of central Nepal with support from the United States. In 1958, the National Malaria Eradication Programme was initiated and in 1978 the concept reverted to a control programme. In 1998, the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) initiative was launched for control in hard-core forests, foothills, the inner Terai and hill river valleys, which accounted for more than 70 percent of malaria cases in Nepal. Malaria is a greater risk in areas with an abundance of vector mosquitoes, among st mobile and vulnerable populations, in relatively inaccessible areas, and during times of certain temperatures. Nepal is primarily a low malaria endemic country with around 80% of malaria cases due to P. vivax and the remaining burden due to P falciparum with occasional case reports of P. ovale or P. malaria mostly imported from Africa.
Ending malaria saves lives and unlocks human potential. Malaria is a disease of poverty and results in poverty. Investing in malaria prevention and elimination means investing in healthier and more prosperous societies. Our work contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – including ending poverty, improving health and well-being, ensuring quality education.
But World Malaria Day is also a time for hope. We live in a time when the elimination of malaria is no longer a dream. The theme for World Malaria Day 2019, “Zero malaria starts with me”, connotes this hope and emphasizes country ownership and community empowerment for malaria prevention and care.
Hope is in the air, but we cannot let it overshadow our vigilance. After more than a decade of steady advances in fighting malaria, progress has leveled off. According to WHO’s latest World Malaria Report, the number of malaria cases remained virtually unchanged—approximately 219 million worldwide—during 2015 to 2017. The number of deaths during that same period was estimated at 435 000.