Malaria epidemic threatens Goan tourism

| 15 October 1997 22:19 IST

The malaria epidemic has spread like a wild fire in the coastal belt of Goa, posing serious threat to the tourism season beginning this month, while ruling politicians seem busy fighting over minor issues rather than taking steps on warfooting.

Creating a record of 15,000 malaria cases in last nine months, the death toll has crossed 45, out of which 15 have occurred in September alone. It's an alarming figure as the coastal population is hardly one fifth of the total 12 lakh population in the tourist state.

"The volcano has burst out in last one year. What we are doing is just salvage operations", admits Dr Jairam Porob, the in-charge of the national malaria eradication programme centre here. Despite having two health workers for every 5000 citizens, lack of political will is a stumbling block to tackle the issue firmly.

The allegations are confirmed with the fact that no builder is fined or the construction work is stopped till date for not implementing anti-larval measures while government has identified long ago construction sites as breeding grounds for mosquitoes and construction workers as the parasite.

Dr Wilfred de Souza, the deputy cm holding health portfolio, has been making hollow announcements of dealing firmly with the builders, the lobby which has reportedly played a major role in stabilising the congress rule here. The health act is amended twice since 1994, authorising the officials to impose anti-larval measures on the builders, a good paperwork indeed.

The first outbreak of malaria was witnessed in Panaji, the capital city, in 1986 with 230 cases, establishing beyond doubt that the construction sites would spread the vector while construction labour would play active role as the parasite. The figures zoomed up to 11,000 cases and around 10 deaths last year, while fully protecting the builders' lobby.

Rather than taking firm steps in controlling its spread, the directorate of health services preferred to concentrate on spraying DDT residual and fogging malathion in the urban colonies. The chief minister and his deputy are still seen fighting over deltamathrine, use of which is prohibited in urban areas, rather than jointly clamping down on the builders and preparing a comprehensive action plan to deal with the epidemic.

Locals are concerned also because the epidemic has moved from plasmodium vivax to plasmodium falciparum, a kind of cerebral malaria which shot up the death toll while creating panic among the coastal population. More than half of the victims were locals this year, which confirmed spread of parasite among the local population from the migrant workers.

Interestingly, the DHS has also developed a cold feet towards the local branch of the malaria research centre, which has shown excellent results in the coastal belt of Candolim-Calangute in north Goa. With year-long work, the research team led by Dr Ashwini Kumar succeeded in bringing down number of cases from 1500 in 1994 to mere 268 cases the following year, while totally eliminating PF cases. It once again shot up to 3500 last year, after the centre was wound up from there.

"Our strategy was simple. Instead of going for risky chemicals, we followed bio-environmental methods like larvivorous fish and spraying of BTI (bacillus thuringiensis) in breeding habitats. Anti-larval methods by emptying everything from barrels to coconut shells full of water and regular monitoring showed us results within one year", states Dr Kumar proudly.

But adopting a jealous approach, the DHS seems to be still beating around the bush rather than following the MRC strategy. While using rural technology to tackle urban malaria vector, ineffective and outdated methodology is still not being replaced.

The DHS has issued over 10,000 health cards to the construction workers this year while the parasite has already spread among the locals. Instead of firmly dealing with the builders who do not follow anti-larval measures, reminders are being sent to them while co-ordination among the DHS and the local panchayats and municipalities is yet to take a concrete shape.

"The central issue is to cut down transmission. But they are still addressing the peripheral issues", observes Dr Kumar, who visualises a direct threat to tourism as construction boom has spread all over the coastal belt and maximum number of malaria cases are also reported from the tourist areas, along with major towns like Panaji, Margao, Mapusa and Ponda.

"How will it affect the tourists ? They just come and go", claims Dr de Souza, who is incidentally also the tourism minister. Though having difference of opinion over minor issues like use of deltamathrine, chief minister Pratapsing Rane also laughs out the possibility, stating that 2.5 million people die of malaria all over the world every year.

The authorities seem to be refusing to learn from the African countries as well as few Asian countries where malaria epidemic has obviously reduced the tourist inflow from the foreign countries. The scene here till date during this season is also not enthusiastic, state the local travel agents.

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Previous Comments

It is a logic, we say unless you have a great knowledge or better education you cannot be a doctor nor judge. It does not reflect any tasks to gain efforts are made to gain those task by taking useless, Being a doctor you need certain doctorate qualification to get into medical field. But being a minister or politician you do not require any qualifications hold those post it is very easy to ocuppy. Fight like bull and take a sit. We have couple of ministers in Goa cabinet do they know what is meaning of 'PORTFOLIO"

Fisherman become - Law Minister

Cook become - Home Minister

Farmer become - Finance Minister and so on. Do they have at least some knowledge or background to run and use those portfolio. All are nuts not capable nor do they fit for that..

I have a better solution to get rid of those nuts and brainwash ministers. Ask admission good one reputed institute in Europe/USA or Singapore take a long courses to gain and enable brain to functions to serve better to to the people of Goa. If not then tour south Goa to hunt mosquitoes it is easy for health minister to hatch like praws.

- Domnick Rodrigues, Verna - Goa | 15 th July 2010 17:43

 

get rid of wilfred and his passive nature.

Malaria is worse than before.

dave

- dave, uk | 12 th March 2010 16:13

 

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