WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health
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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 85-89

Malaria elimination in Sri Lanka: what it would take to reach the goal

1 Anti-Malaria Campaign, Narahenpita, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka
2 World Health Organization South- East Asian Regional Office, New Delhi, India
3 Country Office of the World Health Organization, , Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7, Sri Lanka
4 141 Jawatta Road, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka

Correspondence Address:
Kamini N Mendis
141 Jawatta Road, Colombo 5
Sri Lanka
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DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.206892

PMID: 28607261

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Fifty years after narrowly missing the opportunity to eliminate malaria from Sri Lanka in the 1960s, the country has now interrupted malaria transmission and sustained this interruption for more than 12 months – no indigenous malaria cases have been reported since October 2012. This was achieved through a period overlapping with a 30-year separatist war in areas that were endemic for malaria. The challenge now, of sustaining a malaria-free country and preventing the reintroduction of malaria to Sri Lanka, is examined here in the context of rapid postwar developments in the country. Increased travel to and from the country to expand development projects, businesses and a booming tourist industry, and the influx of labour and refugees from neighbouring malarious countries combine with the continued presence of malaria vectors in formerly endemic areas, to make the country both receptive and vulnerable to the reintroduction of malaria. The absence of indigenous malaria has led to a loss of awareness among the medical profession, resulting in delayed diagnosis of malaria despite the availability of an extensive malaria diagnosis service. Highly prevalent vector-borne diseases such as dengue are competing for health-service resources. Interventions that are necessary at this critical time include sustaining a state-of-the-art surveillance and response system for malaria, and advocacy to maintain awareness among the medical profession and at high levels of government, sustained funding for the Anti-Malaria Campaign and for implementation research and technical guidance on elimination. The malaria-elimination effort should be supported by rigorous analyses to demonstrate the clear economic and health benefits of eliminating malaria, which exceed the cost of a surveillance and response system. An annual World Health Organization review of the programme may also be required.

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