The year that was 2016: Sri Lanka is malaria-free


Sri Lanka was once “among the most malaria-affected countries” in the 20th century, says Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director. Efforts to eradicate malaria began in 1911, with the beginning of the Anti-Malaria Center. In 1934, the nation faced its worst malaria epidemic, with 5.5 million cases. 30 years after the major epidemic, Sri Lanka almost faced near-eradication of the parasite. However, due to the relaxation of indoor residual spraying, reduced rainfall, and dwindling funds, the epidemic resurged in 1967—thus resulting in the resistance of DDT.

A lot has changed in the past century. In its journey to be malaria-free, Sri Lanka has faced adversities, such as the parasite’s resistance to DDT and malarion. Additionally, the civil war between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam erupted in 1983 and waged on for three decades. The malaria-prone region of Vanni was the primary theater of war, thus infecting the displaced citizens, and soldiers of both groups. Nonetheless, the nation made several advances against malaria. With education, and the integration of insecticide-impregnated bed nets and mosquito repellents, there have been zero cases of malaria since 2013.

In 2016, Sri Lanka was certified as a malaria-free nation. However, monitoring must continue in the following years, as international funding against malaria end in 2018, placing the full financial responsibility on the nation.