Bangladesh was once considered as one of the malaria endemic countries in South Asia as the disease was like the outbreak of small pox. Village after village became people-less as small pox was broken out in an epidemic form at that time.
There were no human beings to bury the dead and those who were alive fled to other places out of fear of being infected with small pox.
The outbreak of malaria was also in an epidemic form during the period.
Many people died of the disease due to lack of treatment facilities during that time. As malaria is transmitted through the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito, there was an urgent need to eradicate mosquito.
In the 60s of the last century, the then government with the assistance of the World Health Organisation (WHO) took steps for repelling malaria. The programme included spraying anti-mosquito medicines and providing a card on malaria eradication to each family.
The health assistants used to visit every house to enquire about whether any person was infected with malaria. For this they had to put signature on the card for authenticity of their work.
This programme continued till the middle of the 70s and it was heard at that time that malaria was eradicated from the country. So there was no need to spray anti-mosquito medicines by going door to door.
But it was heard in the middle of the 80s that eradication of malaria was not possible. Though the plain land witnessed success in eliminating malaria, it still exists in the country’s hilly areas.
Malaria is a parasitic infection transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito. Caused by four Plasmodium species (P vivax, P falciparum, P ovale and P malariae), malaria is a public health problem in 90th countries around the world, affecting 300 million people and responsible directly for about one million deaths annually.
As Anopheles mosquitoes live in hills, forests and bushes it’s not possible to completely eliminate this species of mosquito.
Malaria transmission is mostly seasonal and concentrated in the border regions of Bangladesh. Out of 64 districts, 13 districts bordering east and northeast parts of Bangladesh belong to the high risk malaria zone.
Nearly one crore people of Rangamati, Khagrachhari, Bandarban, Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Sunamganj, Moulvibazar, Sylhet, Habiganj, Netrakona, Mymensingh, Sherpur and Kurigram are at the malaria risk.
The risk is high particularly in three hill districts — Rangamati,
Khagrachhari and Bnadarban — and nearly 93 percent people who suffer from malaria are from the three districts.
Sometimes, the disease is spread in these districts in an epidemic form and thousands of people are infected with malaria, while life of the children gets endangered during the time. Because of less preventive power of the disease, a huge number of children of the three hill districts die every year.
Many people cannot understand if they suffer from malaria. For the reason, signboards alerting the people on malaria are hanged at the road inter-sections in the hilly areas.
Fever with shaking chill could be climbed to 105 Fahrenheit. General symptoms of malaria include headache, nausea, fever, vomiting and flu-like symptoms, however these can vary depending on the species causing the infection.
Bangladesh has 34 Anopheles mosquito species. An entomological investigation conducted by ICDDR,B scientists identified seven species to be positive with highest infection rate: Anopheles Karwari, An. maculatus, An. barbriostris , An. nigerrimus, An. vagus , An. subpictus and An. philippinensis.
The opinion of those who conducted research on malaria is that Anopheles mosquitoes actually bite from evening to early morning. This time could be divided into two parts — from evening to sleep time and the sleep time to early morning.
To chase away mosquitoes, cream could be used. But its effectiveness is less. Instead of mosquito net, “dhup” and mat could be used to chase away mosquitoes.. A sharp eye will have to be kept so that mosquitoes cannot increase reproduction. Water-logging couldn’t be allowed as well.
If malaria breaks out in any region, the people will have to use Chloroquine & Proguanil anti-malarial tablets as per the doctors’ advice.
There are arrangements for treatment of malaria in all hospitals of the country. As outbreak of malaria is more in the hill areas, the hospitals situated in these areas have adequate treatment facilities for malaria.
However specialist physicians are required in these hospitals to ensure better treatment of cerebral malaria patients.
The government is working sincerely in eradicating malaria and the
situation is is now improving. The number of malaria patients reduced to 39,719 in 2015 from 57,480 in 2014. The number further went down to 27,737 in 2016.
However, the number of deaths from malaria increased as 17 people died of malaria in 2016 against nine in 2015.
The steps that the government has taken for eliminating malaria have been praised internationally. Bangladesh achieved the millennium development goal (MDG) on cutting malaria death rate in 2012, which was supposed to be fulfilled in 2015.
BRAC Area Manager on malaria in Khagrachhari Rupam Chakma said the non-government organisation is working alongside the government on malaria in the hill district. “We’re providing diagnostic and treatment services to the malaria patients,” he said.
Rupam Chakma said if the condition of any malaria patient getscomplicated, he/she is sent to a nearby hospital. He said BRAC health workers are creating mass awareness about malaria in hill areas.
“They’re giving advices to the underprivileged people to use mosquito net with pesticides and clean bushes,” he said, reports BSS.