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31 July 2008
Agartala, India
By Sujit Chakraborty

The anti–malarial drugs and injections supplied by the central government have proved to be ineffective, says Tripura Health Minister
India seems to be losing its anti–malarial battle in the country's northeastern states, with the drugs supplied by the central government to prevent the disease in the region proving completely ineffective.

The eight northeastern states in the country are a known malaria prone region, with the disease claiming an estimated 500 lives annually.

“We are forced to procure anti–malarial drugs and injections from the market as stocks supplied by the central government have proved to be ineffective”, Tripura Health and Family Welfare Minister Tapan Chakraborty said.

The situation is reported to be so bad that the health and family welfare ministers of all the northeastern states in a meeting held in Imphal, last month, requested the Union Health Minister to provide adequate help and support to curb malaria in the region.

“The union health minister, responding to the demands of the northeast, assured to supply family–size medicated mosquito nets and other materials to tackle malaria in the region”, Chakraborty told reporters.

According to the Minister, the state government has also pressed into service army helicopters to send doctors and paramedics to malaria prone interior areas of the state.

About 59,700 people were affected and 115 people died of malaria during the past three years in Tripura, the Minister said.

Worse, malaria also poses a big threat for the Border Security Force (BSF) troopers and other security forces posted in hostile terrains in the region, more than that of insurgents and smugglers.

“Our jawans are now battling malaria along with snakebites. The two are turning out to be our biggest enemies in the border areas”, BSF’s Tripura frontier Inspector General J. A. Khan said.

Eight BSF personnel died of malaria last year, while 12 have died so far this year. No jawan was killed by insurgents last year, while two have been killed so far this year.

Defence experts and union health ministry officials last month conducted separate studies on the spread of malaria in the northeastern states.

Meanwhile, the Anthropological Survey of India (ASI) has already conducted a study on the genetic characteristics of the inhabitants of northeast, known to be a “Malaria prone zone”.

The study is expected to help researchers in understanding how to develop a new drug to tackle the new disease variants.

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