Bhutan is targeting the elimination of malaria by 2025. This is after missing two targets in 2018 and 2020. According to the health minister, cross-border issues in the south especially during the COVID-19 pandemic have hampered the country’s progress in achieving the status. Bhutan recorded nine malaria cases last year but the ministry is reviewing if those cases were from the community.
Elimination of malaria does not mean total eradication of malaria. According to the Health Minister, malaria elimination status is achieved when the country does not report any indigenous or community cases. This means even if the country achieves malaria elimination status, there could still be imported malaria cases.
The minister said the health officials are investigating every malaria case followed by contact tracing, and a survey among others. The ministry also reportedly strengthened coordination with India besides intensifying measures to achieve the target.
“We also had a series of discussions of the cross border because malaria is sort of endemic in the south. Also, there are lots of cross-border issues with malaria. So, we have a good partnership with GoI in the elimination of malaria. So, to eliminate, all these activities also need to be intensified on both sides of the countries.”
Public awareness and prevention are some of the important measures to eliminate malaria. But the minister said noncompliance from the public is the main challenge.
“If people are compliant with what we are saying, then I think we would achieve very quickly. We tell them not to keep stagnant water, people keep stagnant water, and there’s the need to wear long sleeves but nobody listens. If you have symptoms, you need to report but people don’t come. We are trying our best to make information available but at the same time, people will also have to follow.”
The minister added it is important for everyone to take up individual responsibility for eliminating the disease.
To achieve the malaria elimination status, the country should report any malaria case from the community for three consecutive years.
Bhutan has seen a drastic reduction in malaria cases with just 23 cases in 2021. As per the Annual Health Bulletin, of it, nine were reported from within the community.