The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has launched the 'Malaria Elimination Research Alliance (MERA) India' - a conglomeration of partners working on malaria control - in order to prioritise, plan and scale up research to eliminate the disease from India by 2030.
The principal activity of the alliance is to prioritise, plan, conduct, scale up and translate relevant research in a coordinated and combinatorial way in order to have a tangible impact on the population who are at risk of malaria, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director General Dr Balram Bhargava said.
"Over the past two decades, India has made impressive progress in malaria control. The malaria burden has declined by over 80 per cent, 2.03 million cases in 2000 to 0.39 million in 2018, and malaria deaths by over 90 per cent, 932 deaths in 2000 to 85 in 2018," Dr Bhargava said.
He said this success has provided a strong foundation for the commitment from the leadership of the government of India to eliminate malaria from India by 2030.
The National Vector Borne Diseases Control Program (NVBDCP) of India has developed a comprehensive framework to achieve the overarching vision of "Malaria free India by 2030".
The NVBDCP's National Strategic Plan clearly recognises the critical role of research to support and guide malaria elimination efforts.
This situation highlights the need for a common platform and shared research agenda and resources through establishment of the Malaria Elimination Research Alliance (MERA) India, Dr Bhargava said.
The MERA India does not intend to duplicate international efforts rather complement this on a national scale while contributing to the broader global agenda.
The alliance will facilitate trans-institutional coordination and collaboration around a shared research agenda which responds not only to programmatic challenges and addresses gaps in available tools but also pro actively contributes to targeted research, he said.
It aims to harness and reinforce research in coordinated and combinatorial ways in order to achieve tangible impact on malaria elimination, he explained.
"MERA India alliance is very important to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare because of the operational research. The WHO report has appreciated our research for decline in malaria and it is time to ensure its elimination by 2030," Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan said.
Sudan also focussed on the need to inform the people about the malaria protective measures via media in form of small video clips.
Dr Neena Valecha, the regional adviser, WHO-SEARO, stressed on the need of support from the government. She mentioned about the need of coordinated approach, research inputs and tools which can guide national programme to develop strategies for the regular changes endemicity in the near malaria elimination era.
He also mentioned the importance of malaria elimination, need of commitment for cutting edge research and to stick to the timeline.
"Our focus should be on the challenges with parasite and vector biology, social science communication and health economics," he added.