India: MSF Launches Malaria Intervention in Mumbai

India 2010 © Guillaume Bonnet/MSF

MSF is providing training for local health center staff in diagnosing and treating malaria.

Following a sharp increase in malaria cases in Mumbai, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has launched a malaria intervention to help local health authorities fight the disease. On August 18, MSF teams that were already working in an HIV treatment project in Mumbai began providing 100,000 diagnostic kits and 3,700 treatment kits to 64 health centers in the city. MSF will also provide training for health center staff in diagnosing and treating the disease.

MSF is responding to a request from the Ministry of Health to reinforce the supply of treatment for the falciparum strain of malaria, which is the most deadly form of the disease and constitutes approximately 10 to 15 percent of all cases in Mumbai. The diagnostic tests that MSF provides are an efficient way of identifying which strain of malaria the patient is infected with.

The most affected areas of the city are home to half a million people. There, the 14,724 recorded malaria cases for the first six months of 2010 is nearly equal to the number of cases recorded for the whole of last year.

“Last year, MSF successfully treated over one million malaria patients in 30 different countries," said Tiago Dal Molin, MSF’s project coordinator in Mumbai. "We are pleased to share our resources and expertise with the Mumbai authorities. It is crucial that health staff can give a correct diagnosis so that patients can be treated appropriately. The diagnostic tests that we provide are reliable, easy to use, and require just one drop of blood to give results.”

Despite improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of malaria, the disease continues to kill almost one million people around the world every year.

“The disease is transmitted by infected mosquitoes, and areas with stagnant water are usually ideal breeding grounds," said MSF’s Sanjana Maurya, who is supervising the intervention. "Recent heavy rains in Mumbai are likely to be the cause of the current rise in malaria.” 

“Some of the most vulnerable people are the migrants in Mumbai who work in construction labor," added Tiago Dal Molin. "They often sleep close to construction sites where there is a lot of stagnant water following the heavy rains."