Malaria and the wrath of God

A WELL-KNOWN quasi-ecumenical argument against the existence of God is the existence of the mosquito: apart from being frustratingly acrobatic and musically demented, the little bugger serves no evident purpose at all in the Almighty's scheme of things. Except one which the Lord's herd can do without: over the millennia, it has been responsible for more human deaths than have all the wars since the beginning of human history. Surely, the atheist argument goes, God couldn't have arranged it so that one of the smallest of insects became the carrier of a major human liquidator: malaria.

The origin of this disease is a matter of debate (was ground zero in Africa or Southeast and South-central Asia?), but scientific opinion, for once, concurs regarding the 5 main foci from where malaria rippled outwards since the beginning of evolution: tropical Africa, Mesopotamia, India, South China and the Nile valley.

The parallel evolution of humans, mosquitoes and the protozoan malarial parasite began when our hominid ancestors greedily invaded the forests and promptly got baggaged with the parasite from arboreal primates. With such a hoary history of persistent pestilence, it is no wonder that the various elements of the malaria system have reached extraordinary levels of adaptability, especially in South and Southeastern Asia.

Unfortunately, humans have always tended to side-step malaria and a prevention process. Marco Polo had observed the wealthier residents of the Coromandel coast in South India sleeping on bedsteads with curtains which could be closed at night. Specific controls began only after A Laveran, a French army doctor working in Algeria, took blood samples from a sick soldier and identified the microbe we today call Plasmodium falciparm That the mosquito was vector for this drea& disease was discovered I Ross and others in I" Since then, howeiv fforts to control m eradicate malaria ha proved to be rather lazv 1990 statistics of the United Nations Po" lation Division reveal dm apart from AIDS, it iS d single other disease shows no sign of reined in.

Malaria prev remains a tricky pr tion even today. The tor Anopheles stephe" longer haunts only es - a domestic container will do just In certain parts of east Asia, Pfialcipark already developed a tance to mefloqui drug in use since I Add t9 this the ine% insecticide resistant ins, cross-resistame malarial vectors and even refusal to spray insecticides for overdosing themselves, and you to glimpse the contours of the p roblem.
Malaria in India Malaria, like in other Southea countries, is endemic in IndL& National Malaria Control Prog" was launched in 1953, and con the National Malaria Eradic Programme (MNEP) in 1958. A showcase bereft of community pation, it boomeranged. A maloc I gence of malaria in the '70s forcm government to modify its approad.

In 1984, a malaria control pa involving the local population. off in the malaria- infested Nad ka of Kheda district in " Plantations in marshy arias; lar fish in ponds connected to places; soakaway pits for wasxtl management, and health all these measures produced spevom results. The project was exp"A cover the entire district of 350 000 people living in 100 villages. Apart beneficial effects on health, the Nadiad experience proved the financial efficacy tbwenvironmental approach: a per owst of Rs 4.97, as against Rs 6.23 om spraying and a whopping Rs 5 esing malathion.

The MNFP has reported a 72 per cent w in malaria cases, from 6.45 mil W 1976 to 1.81 million in 1991. But hiaria Research Centre (MRC), set 119,77, and the health are brought to view: bow, for instance, the construction boom in Goa has led to a reappearance of malaria; or how various voluntary agencies have managed& hurdle over obstacles posed by particular socio-cultural situations.

Thimasarn probe the ol mosquito breed vas popularly interpreted as a ter ploy to sterilise residents! eminunity Participation in Malaria wl examines the knotty business of Editor and MRc director V P &a provides an overall perspective eviews the impact of bioenviron d methods and community partic m 'in malaria control; 19 other sexamine case studies from different parts of India. Numerous issues development of drug- resistance in Pfalciparum in Thailand.

These books consists of a wide array of information on malaria, against the backdrop of geography, population structure, behaviour of the vector and the impact of intervention measures.

--- Bhanusingha Ghosh is a research scholar at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.