Greater investment needed to check malaria: WHO

With three out of four people at risk of malaria in South-East Asia region, the World Health Organization yesterday called for greater investment in the battle against the disease on the occasion of World Malaria Day,  PTI reports.

Even as the number of confirmed malaria cases in the region, which is home to a quarter of the world's population, fell from 2.9 million in 2000 to 2 million in 2012, the disease continues to remain a significant threat to the lives of people.

The report quoted Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO regional director for South-East Asia as saying 1.4 billion people continued to be at risk of malaria in South-East Asia.

She added, they were often the poorest, including workers in hilly or forested areas, in development projects such as mining, agro-forestry, road and dam constructions, and upland subsistence farming in rural and urban areas.

Stressing that the funding needed to be increased for diagnostics, drugs, insecticide-treated mosquito nets, and research and response to drug and insecticide resistance, Singh said, communities needed to be empowered to protect themselves.

She added eliminating malaria would take greater political will.

Malaria, has been part of human history since earliest times according to the American Forces Press Service. The earliest documented references pertain to Chinese writing on malaria going back to 2700 BC, and Eber's papyrus description in 1550 BC.

Despite much progress in the prevention of the disease and its treatment over the last several decades, malaria continues to threaten the lives of millions of children and adults and hamper economic development.

US military records cite the incidence of the disease as far back as 1775, when George Washington had to expend his very limited monetary resources to purchase quinine for the treatment of malaria in the Continental Army.

The disease continues to plague armies and forces to this day and in the last century US troops in World War II, Vietnam, and even recently in Afghanistan suffered heavily from outbreaks. 

In 2003, a military peacekeeping operation in Liberia failed due to 80 cases of malaria in the 220 Marines deployed within the first few weeks of the mission.