Taasir English News Network | 21 Apr 2020
MUMBAI : Consumer goods industry and Indian health organizations have requested the government to include mosquito repellents, pesticide sprays, liquid vaporizers and other household insecticides in the list of essential goods, as the risk of vector-borne diseases (VBDs), such as dengue and malaria, pose a huge threat to the country.
While India fights the novel coronavirus, risk of dengue and malaria also looms large over Asia’s third-largest economy, the World Health Organization (WHO) had warned in March.
To keep diseases like dengue and malaria at a bay, Indian households mainly depend upon repellents. Due to the country’s focus on controlling the pandemic, not only the repellents been excluded from the essential items list, even local health authorities have stopped the routine outdoor spraying of pesticides.
Consequently, companies that manufacture household insecticides are staring at significant revenue losses.
“Do not scale back your planned malaria prevention, diagnostic and treatment activities,” Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme, said on 25 March, 2020.
Sunil Kataria, CEO at Godrej Consumer Products. Ltd. (GCPL), which derives 38-40% revenues from home insecticide items, said, “We have been holding regular conversation with the ministry of health and family welfare. The government should mention household insecticide items explicitly in the list of essential goods, otherwise we are not able to manufacture or supply these products meant to fight dengue, malaria and other VBDs.”
Household insecticides include mosquito repellents of all types and sprays for flies, rats and cockroaches etc. The household insecticide industry is valued at around ₹6,300-6,500 crore, says GCPL.
“This category has a 77% penetration in urban areas and roughly 48-50% in rural India. This itself explains how much the country needs these products,” said Kataria, adding that GCPL has got permission to operate some factories with 25-30% of its manpower, which is inadequate.
“We haven’t got permission to start our units in many locations, including the north-east of India which is a very critical area in terms of VBDs. The government should help us in opening all the insecticide factories with 50-60% capacity to begin with, so that we are able to ensure a smooth supply of home insecticides,” said Kataria.
Over the last three years dengue has been increasing spreading in the country. In India, Malaria and Dengue cases usually start increasing from May and spike after the monsoon during July and August. Every year, typically during March and April, local authorities in cities and small towns start taking preventive measures, such as fogging, fumigation and awareness campaigns. But this year preventive activities have taken a backseat since most of the resources have been directed towards containing covid-19.
According to WHO, India is among the 11 most malaria-affected countries in the world.
Neeraj Jain, country director of PATH, India Ltd., which acts closely with the government, says, “Looking at the past, in case we don’t go back to normal days of prevention, we could see anything between 50% to 100% rise in VBD cases.”
PATH is a global organization that works to accelerate health equity by bringing together public institutions, businesses, social enterprises, and investors to solve the world’s most pressing health challenges.
“We have cut off the prevention pipeline. That’s dangerous. Health authorities have to shift their focus back to dengue and malaria. If that doesn’t happen, in case we see a surge in malaria or dengue, the health system will just not be able to cope with that,” said Jain.
Currently, India accounts for 3% of global malaria cases.
In March, health journal Lancet said, “There is, therefore, a real and pressing danger for malaria-endemic regions when faced with the threat of a novel infectious disease outbreak.”
In Singapore alone more than 4,000 cases of dengue fever have been reported this year since January, which is more than double of last year. Every week, 300-400 new cases have been reported in the island country this year.
Kataria said, “We all are facing a pandemic of a catastrophic order and the government is rightfully focusing on medical and social infrastructure for controlling Covid-19. So it is not an “either-or” situation. But that should not completely take away the focus from other health risks. India has always been a hotbed of vector borne diseases due to its tropical climate.”
According to NVBDCP (National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme), in India there were more than 4.87 lakh cases of malaria, dengue and chikungunya last year. Dengue affected more than 1.36 lakh people last year alone in India and has been increasing over the last few years. States in India witnessing the highest number of dengue cases in 2019 are Karnataka – 15,232, Gujarat – 14,835 , Rajasthan – 12,664 and Maharashtra – 12,374.