Pest control operator demonstrates larviciding operations in Uttar Pradesh, India
India’s Fight Against Vector-Borne Diseases

Best Practice, New Perspectives

Credit: Bayer AG


Bayer’s Dr. Arun Kumar, Head of Environmental Science South Asia, looks at the nation’s areas of progress, promise and need for further attention. 

In addition to malaria, what Vector-Borne Diseases (VBDs) are of significant risk to India?

In India, VBDs pose a significant risk to most of the population due to rapid urbanization, increased movement of people and goods, environmental changes and biological challenges. All major VBDs such as malaria, dengue, chikungunya, filariasis, Japanese Encephalitis and visceral leishmaniasis are prevalent in India, as well as a threat of emerging VBDs like Zika. In addition to the mortality risk, these diseases impede economic development through direct medical costs and indirect costs such as loss of productivity and the impact on tourism.

Pest control operator demonstrates larviciding operations in Uttar Pradesh, India
Credit: Bayer AG


A village leader watches as a pest control operator demonstrates larviciding operations in a village in Uttar Pradesh, northern India.

Would you describe the risk areas as rural, urban or a mix of these? What makes these areas susceptible to VBDs?

VBDs pose a serious and continuing challenge across India owing to the increase in geographic distribution of vectors, despite varied climatic conditions and terrain features. Around 95 percent of the population in India is at risk of malaria. Dengue is regarded as an urban public health problem; however, outbreaks are being increasingly documented in rural areas as well.

Mosquitoes can breed in very small pockets of water. Especially around the monsoons, innocuous objects such as flowerpots, potholes and discarded tires start to collect water and become breeding sites for mosquito larvae. These watercollection sites are ubiquitous across the country, increasing the risk for VBDs. Lifestyle practices also increase the chance for VBDs to spread.

For instance, due to the heat and humidity in several parts of the country it is common for villagers to sleep in the open, often without any personal protection such as bednets or full-sleeved shirts and pajamas, thereby increasing the risk of mosquito bites. All of these factors complicate concerted efforts to control VBDs.

Pest control operator demonstrates larviciding operations in Uttar Pradesh, India
Credit: Bayer AG


Guest speakers and farmers learned from each other at events held in Uttar Pradesh on World Malaria Day 2019, in collaboration with the Better Life Farming Alliance. 

Where and in what ways is India making progress against VBDs? What areas and issues need further attention?

India has made considerable progress in the management of VBDs over the last few years by way of interventions for case management and vector control. This has resulted in a significant reduction of malaria, visceral leishmaniasis and lymphatic filariasis cases, and these diseases are now being targeted for elimination. Yet there is a long road ahead for achieving complete victory over these deadly VBDs.

The government of India has targeted to eliminate malaria from India by 2030 through the National Framework for Malaria Elimination. This is a critical milestone for the world to achieve the “ZERO by 40” declaration that was signed last year by the Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and five leading agricultural companies, including Bayer.

The government continues to combat mosquitoes and other insect vectors, but given the complexity of the country, all these measures are difficult to execute effectively. Some things that could radically change the VBD landscape in India include making surveillance and response more causal and real-time, using integrated vector management techniques with innovative new products to avoid or counter insecticide resistance, and driving further community awareness and participation. All of these can also be made more effective through innovative public-private partnerships.

Signed commitment at the World Malaria Day 2019
Credit: Bayer AG



30 village leaders, agri-entrepreneurs and Banaras Hindu University professors signed a commitment on World Malaria Day (April 25, 2019) to do their part to control malaria and other VBDs in their villages.

If you had a ‘wish list,’ what would be the key ideas for these publicprivate partnerships to consider?

Disease control or elimination is not easy, and it requires collaboration among a broad group of stakeholders, including the government, non-governmental organizations, private sector companies and the general public. We expect that public-private partnerships will be very important in the context of India to eliminate malaria and control dengue and other VBDs. National dialogues like the one conducted by “The Associated Chambers of Commerce of India (ASSOCHAM)” and Bayer last year bring together relevant stakeholders to discuss critical topics and issues in VBD management and accelerate time to market for innovative insecticides and treatment kits.

Public engagement is also very important. In an urban context, the government undertakes larviciding and space sprays in public areas, but that is only part of the solution. In high-rise apartments, there could be unintended pockets of water collection in areas inaccessible to municipal workers, resulting in continued mosquito breeding despite the best efforts of the government. This requires engagement and activation of the general public to also take appropriate control measures. From a rural perspective, many villagers and farmers struggle with a high mosquito burden, with little recourse. Educating these farmers on simple protective measures leveraging the network of large farmer-focused alliances such as Better Life Farming, can yield tremendous gains across the country.

Finally, the private sector can also contribute to VBD reduction through investments for the research and development of innovative tools for prevention and treatment. Health departments can encourage more of such firms to enhance these investments by enabling faster and better adoption of those innovations. Further, directing the use of corporate social responsibility funds to focus on protecting rural communities from VBDs can also be an important catalyst to eliminating malaria in India by 2030.

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