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Kala-azar Elimination: Bihar to Miss Deadline

  • 11 Mar 2021
  • 4 min read

Why in News

The new cases of Kala-azar or Visceral Leishmaniasis have been reported in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district, casting serious doubt on the state government’s efforts to eradicate the disease in the state by 2022.

  • Bihar has already missed the Kala-azar elimination target four times since 2010.
  • The first deadline was 2010, under the National Health Programme, followed by 2015. It was later extended to 2017 and 2020 due to the government’s failure to eliminate Kala-azar.

Key Points

  • Kala-azar or Leishmaniasis:
    • Visceral leishmaniasis, also known as kala-azar, is characterized by irregular bouts of fever, substantial weight loss, swelling of the spleen and liver, and anaemia.
    • If the disease is not treated, the fatality rate in developing countries can be as high as 100% within 2 years.
    • It is a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) affecting almost 100 countries including India.
      • NTDs are a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries.
    • It is caused by a parasite called Leishmania, which is transmitted through the bite of sand flies.
    • There are three types of leishmaniasis:
      • Visceral leishmaniasis, which affects multiple organs and is the most serious form of the disease.
      • Cutaneous leishmaniasis, which causes skin sores and is the most common form.
      • Mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, which causes skin and mucosal lesions.
    • Visceral leishmaniasis, which is commonly known as Kala-azar in India, is fatal in over 95% of the cases, if left untreated.
  • Reasons for Missing the Deadline:
    • Lack Direction: Elimination programmes lack direction and Kala-azar returns year after year.
    • Widespread Poverty: It was mostly the poor belonging to the Dalits, Other Backward Communities and Muslims, who were the main victims of the disease.
  • Trend of Decline: However, there also has been a trend of decline in the number of Kala-azar cases in Bihar in the last few years.
    • There were 23,084 cases in 2010, and by 2020, there were 2,712 cases, according to official data.

National Kala-azar Elimination Programme

  • The National Health Policy-2002 set the goal of Kala-azar elimination in India by the year 2010 which was revised to 2015.
  • Continuing focused activities with high political commitment, India signed a Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bangladesh and Nepal to achieve Kala-azar elimination from the South-East Asia Region (SEAR).
  • Elimination is defined as reducing the annual incidence of Kala-azar to less than 1 case per 10,000 population at the sub-district level in India.
  • Presently all programmatic activities are being implemented through the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) which is an umbrella programme for prevention & control of vector borne diseases and is subsumed under National Health Mission (NHM).

National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme

Source: DTE

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