Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 23:
In a state that accounts for 36 percent of all malaria deaths in the country, this is nothing short of criminal. The failure of the Health department to utilise the Rs 90 crores earmarked for it under the ‘Mo Mashari’ scheme to distribute Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLIN) to protect pregnant women against malaria infection has seen malaria cases in the state nearly double in a year.
As per data available, cases of malaria infected people in the state, which stood at 2.28 lakh in 2013-14, jumped nearly two-fold to reach 3.95 lakh in 2014-15, primarily, though not entirely, due to the failure of the scheme that was sold as the panacea for the malaria problem at the time of its launching.
On the other hand, Health department statistics reveal that after a steady fall for three years, malaria deaths have started rising again. The statistics reveal that as many as 100 people died of the infection in 2011, 79 in 2012 and 67 in 2013. However, the toll took a big upward leap in 2014 with 89 deaths.
An official of the Health department, on condition of anonymity, admitted that the department has not distributed mosquito nets during 2014-15. The Centre too has stopped providing mosquito nets. Though the department has decided to utilise last financial year’s fund during 2015-16, it has no information available with it on the tendering process and procurement of nets.
To everybody’s surprise, the department had not supplied mosquito nets for 2012-13 and 2013-14 either. The department had distributed a few nets in Koraput. During that time, it had given a clarification that the Centre had not supplied the stocks, the official said.
Recently, Union Health Minister had informed the Lok Sabha that despite Jharkhand and -Chhattisgarh being malaria-prone states, they have fared well in controlling the spread of the disease.
Eighty percent of malaria deaths are reported from tribal dominated districts in Odisha. The most cases of malaria deaths are reported from Malkangiri, Gajapati, Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Keonjhar, Koraput, Mayurbhanj, Nuapada, Rayagada and Sundargarh districts, the minister had said.
It may be mentioned that ‘Mo Mashari’ (my bed net) was launched in November 2009, as a programme to protect pregnant women against malaria through distribution of Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLIN). Initially, five districts with high malaria burdens were targeted, in a pilot period from March 2010 to March 2011, expanded to a further two districts in 2012.