Pemagatshel dzongkhag was awarded a certificate for not reporting a single case of locally transmitted malaria in the last four years. The recognition was awarded yesterday in Nganglam where the World Malaria Day, themed “End Malaria for Good,” was observed.

With this Pemagatshel becomes the second dzongkhag after Samtse, to be certified malaria free. Samtse was declared malaria free in 2015. During the event, seven officials were also awarded recognition certificates for their continuous contribution towards the vector control program for more than 30 years. An exhibition on vector control and prevention was also held.

Health secretary Dr Ugyen Dophu, who awarded the certificates said achieving elimination status is not the end and that the challenge is to sustain it.

The day was celebrated with principals, teachers, students and residents of Nganglam town. The representative from the World Health Organisation country office also attended the event.

Dr Ugyen Dophu reminded officials of the need to strengthen cross border ties with the state government in India for joint surveillance. He urged residents living in malaria risk zones to know the basic facts about malaria  and malaria prevention.

“Bhutan has made remarkable progress in its fight against malaria with the pledge to eliminate malaria cases by 2018,” the health secretary said. “This will remain one of the major public health achievements in recent years but the onus falls on individuals to protect yourself from mosquito bites.”

He said that as they shift from control to the elimination phase, a vigilant surveillance system should be in place due to the increase in hydropower project construction sites and increasing influx of tourists from malaria endemic countries both within and outside the region.

Of the 11 gewogs in Pemagatshel, three gewogs of Choekhorling, Decheling and Norbugang, which together have a total population of 8,709 in its 17 chiwogs still fall in the malaria risk area because they are located near the border town in Nganglam.

From 39,852 in 1994 to 74 cases in 2017, malaria cases have declined steadily in the country according to records with the health information system. Of the 74 cases, 15 were indigenous cases reported from two dzongkhags of Samdrupjongkhar and Sarpang while the remaining 59 were imported. No deaths from malaria were also reported in the country since 2013.

Meanwhile, if there are no reports of locally transmitted malaria this year, Dagana and Zhemgang will also be certified as malaria free dzongkhags next year.

Yangchen C Rinzin