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Press Release

From Times of India - Original


Malaria Menace, 10 EMCP Covered Districts are the Worst Hit

BYLINE: Times of India News Service

DATELINE: 12 December 1999

JAMSHEDPUR: By a curious irony, the ten districts of Bihar are among the worst affected by the current spate of malaria epidemic where the state government in 1997 had launched the World Bank-funded "enhanced malaria control programme" (EMCP). These ten districts are Ranchi, Lohardaga, Gumla, Palamu, Garhwa, Shahibganj, Godda, Dumka, West Singhbhum and East Singhbhum.

The programme run by the malaria control offices of the respective districts, received funds directly from the Delhi-based directorate of national anti-malaria programme. As the deplorable situation prevailing in these districts suggests, the programme was implemented in the typical slipshod manner of the government.

Take the case of East Singhbhum district, a malaria-prone zone where there has been "seven clinically confirmed" malaria deaths till November this year. Here, the EMCP apparently did not go beyond a "jeep bought under the programme and an accountant who is drawing Rs 1,000 every month". The Union government's directorate for anti-malaria programme suspended aid as the districts authorities had failed to submit utilisation certificate for fund allocated during the second quarter of the current financial year, sources connected with the Bihar legislative assembly committee probing into the outbreak of malaria disclosed.

The effectiveness of the programme can be judged from the fact that only 34,814 blood samples have been collected so far against the target of 188,989. Going by the official records, the number of "malaria positive cases," nevertheless, fell to 6,160 till October this year from 10,612 in 1998 and 11,726 in 1997.

The percentage of Plasmodium falciparum (PF) positive cases is still very alarming -- 88.7 per cent till October this year, 91.8 per cent in 1998 and 94.2 per cent in 1997. In fact, the percentage of PF positive cases was between 90 and 84 during 1992-96, before the EMCP was launched in the district. Last year, there were ten "clinically confirmed" deaths due to malaria in the districts.

Meanwhile, East Singhbhum deputy commissioner Nidhi Khare has constituted a special team of doctors which is visiting the affected areas. The administration has also launched an awareness campaign along with the local non-government organisations.

Meanwhile, chairman of the assembly committee Bijendra Prasad Yadav has blamed the Rashtriya Janata Dal government for the "malaria epidemic" in the state.

Yadav who visited the steel city last week to take stock of the situation, told reporters that malaria had taken an "epidemic proportion" in ten districts of Bihar plateau because of the negligence of the state government." He feared that at least 1,000 lives had been lost due to malaria in the ten districts this year. "The official death toll (50-odd) so far is far less as most of the cases have gone unreported," he pointed out

"The government has practically done nothing for prevention of malaria in the last few years," Yadav maintained. "Even the basic preventive steps, like spraying of DDT during transmission period from May to September, have not been followed since 1994-95. The state did not allocate fund for transportation of DDT allocated by the Centre." The state government made no arrangement for transportation of 200 metric tonnes of DDT allotted to Bihar for 1999-2000, he claimed. The Centre has been providing DDT free of cost.

``West Singhbhum where the percentage of PF positive cases is 98, does not have a full-time malaria officer," Yadav informed. "Of the ten districts hit by malaria, only Ranchi and Dumka have regular malaria officers. Fund allocated for malaria control has never been utilised properly in the last five years. Invariably, the money has been sanctioned a couple of days before the end of the financial year. About 60 per cent of the posts are vacant and staff have not received salary for months. Surveillance at the public health centres has completely failed,'' he added.

Webmaster's Note: Please see this article about DEATHS caused by kala azar, also in Bihar, also with shortage of DDT. This article details operational failures similar to those here. Unfortunately the article lacks information about what species are the vectors and what is their insecticide resistance status.

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