Indian officials call WHO malaria estimates low

Health officials in India estimate that more than 200,000 people in that country may be dying of malaria each year.

This estimate is approximately 13 times greater than World Health Organization estimates, according to a recent study published in The Lancet, reports.

Researchers in India based their calculations on interviews with family members of more than 122,000 people who died between 2001 and 2003. Officials told that the numbers greatly exceed the WHO estimates, which calculated 15,000 malaria deaths in India each year.

Study author Prabhat Jha of the Center for Global Health Research in Toronto said that the recent study showed that malaria kills more people in India than previously believed.

“This is the first nationwide study that has collected information on causes of death directly from communities,” Jha told

Jha said part of the disparity may be due to the fact that remote regions in India may have undocumented malaria cases because conventional methods of tracking the disease are flawed.

Jha told that, in India, the government malaria data used by the WHO only counts patients who had tested positive for the disease at a hospital or clinic.

Study co-author Vinod Sharma of the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi told that residents who died of symptoms closely resembling malaria but who didn’t get a blood test are not counted in the WHO estimates.

Both authors concluded that the lack of accurate data may hinder efforts by governments and aid organizations to provide diagnosis and treatment to India residents.

Malaria infects about 250 million people annually and kills almost 1 million, according to the WHO statistics.