Even as India targets eliminating malaria by 2030, healthcare multinational Abbott has committed support to Odisha, the State with the greatest malaria burden in the country.
Abbott will provide one million rapid diagnostic testing kits and ₹6-crore funding over three years towards capacity building, including training workers on the ground to screen and report cases into the State’s surveillance system, Sanjeev Johar, President of Abbott Rapid Diagnostics (Asia-Pacific), told BusinessLine.
This is a pilot project and is presently part of CSR (corporate social responsibility), said Johar, adding however that it could scale up to other States depending on how this effort pans out. Besides, the States could differ in their approach to tackling malaria, he said.
Giving details on the Odisha project, Pratik Kumar, Country Director, Malaria No More, India (MNM) said, Odisha was chosen because it had the largest disease burden and the fact that it had shown a massive improvement in reducing the number of cases. MNM is a US-based NGO that has been working in India for about six years. The NGO recently signed an MoU with the Odisha State government for capacity building and malaria surveillance, he said.
Explaining how the situation will change on the ground, he said, earlier there was a time lag between taking the blood slide and getting the diagnosis that was required to start treatment. There were few blood collection centres and fewer pathologists, especially in the eastern part of the country. The present system with rapid diagnostic test kits can be operated by ground level health ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activists) workers who can report it into the surveillance system, he said. Abbott’s Johar added that their kit had a 99 per cent accuracy and would be used in high-prevalence areas of the State. Once the data is collected by the State, a template could be designed for others to follow, he said. MNM’s Kumar added that they would use the data to develop realtime strategies for further possible expansion.
According to a World Health Organisation report last year, the cases of malaria that were reported had dropped by around half between 2001 and 2016 and, in nearly three-quarters of India’s more than 650 districts, the number of people falling ill from malaria was very low.
“But India’s path towards elimination has proven to be particularly difficult in the remote and rugged tribal areas of the country’s north-east region and in Odisha to the east – areas where malaria is one of the most common health problems,” the WHO said.