Health Min Misses Target, Vows to Wipe Out Kala-azar by 2015
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31 January 2011
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India
India has missed the National Health Policy target to eliminate kala–azar – the deadly parasitic disease transmitted through the bite of a sandfly – by 2010.
Now, the Union health ministry’s new target is to eliminate or reduce the number of kala–azar cases to 1 per 10,000 population by 2015.
Provisional data available with TOI shows that the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) recorded nearly 25,113 cases of Kala–azar in 2010 with 73 deaths.
Of these 19,889 cases and 73 deaths were reported from Bihar, followed by Jharkhand – 3,904 cases and four deaths – and West Bengal – 1,254 cases and four deaths. The Capital recorded 33 cases, and not a single incident of death.
"We have missed the 2010 target. According to a tripartite treaty between Bangladesh, Nepal and India, the new kala–azar elimination target date is 2015. Elimination means reducing number of cases to 1 per 10,000 population," a health ministry official said.
He added, "We won’t miss the 2015 target. At present, only 542 blocks across India report this infection. And in 50% of these blocks, we have eliminated the disease."
So why did the ministry miss the target? "Bihar, which is worst hit by Kalaazar, is the main reason. Fortunately, things are changing in Bihar, where the state health ministry is pulling out all stops to eliminate it."
Bihar’s health minister informed Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad at a recent meeting in Hyderabad that the state government was organising 10,000 camps in 38 districts under "Gram Swasthya Chetna Yatra" (GSCY), which will give special attention to kala–azar detection, prevention and treatment.
"Miltefosin, a drug, is very effective. Earlier, a person suspected to be infected had to be taken to a hospital for diagnosis. But, RK 39 uses only a finger prick method," an official said. The ministry is also giving incentives to those combating the disease.