Nima Wangdi

With numerous measures underway, Bhutan is optimistic about eliminating malaria by 2025. This deadline comes after Bhutan missed two deadlines, 2018 and 2020.

Health officials said that the country missed the past two deadlines because of frequent cases near the southern border followed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Programme Analyst of Vector-borne Disease Control Programme in Gelephu, 

Tobgyel said that the coordination between the two countries has been strengthened and the officials are constantly in dialogue.

“We communicate when we have cases and the counterpart does the same when they have cases,” he said.

They meet quarterly to discuss the issues and also have a social media group for faster communication besides regular visits.

Tobgyel said that Bhutan is on track as of now. He said he is hoping to get certified by the WHO in 2025 for malaria elimination.

Bhutan hit pre-elimination in 2013 but could not make it because of the cases on the border, according to Tobgyel.

He said Bhutan had one malaria case last year but the technical team is yet to review and see if it was an indigenous case. “We would have completed one year without indigenous malaria already if the case turns out to be imported.”

To earn a malaria elimination status, the country should not have an indigenous case for three consecutive years. WHO will then verify and issue the certificate.

Of the seven malaria high-risk dzongkahgs, Samtse eliminated in 2012, Phuntsholing in Chukha in 2019, Panbang in Zhemgang and Lhamoidzingkha in Dagana in 2018, Nganglam in Pemagatshel in 2017. Samdrupjongkhar will be certified this year during the World Malaria Day celebrations.

The program certifies the dzongkhags that eliminate malaria.

WHO’s National Professional Officer, Sonam Wangdi, at the WHO’s annual conference for health journalists and health officials in Punakha last week said, that border malaria and global warming have always been a challenge for many countries in the world in eliminating malaria.

Despite the challenges, some countries have managed to eliminate the disease and Bhutan should also be able to do it.

Sonam Wangdi said Bhutan initially tried to coordinate with the neighbouring country at the national level but it failed. “Now we are doing it at the district level and it is going on well as both the parties are responsive to each other.”  

Records with the programme showed that there were 54 malaria cases in 2018, 42 in 2019 and 54 in 2020, 23 cases in 2021, and one last year. There were no deaths from 2019 onward to date. There was one death each in 2017 and 2018.