Malaria cases on the rise in Sri Lanka

The number of malaria cases in Sri Lanka rose 25 percent from 2009 to 2010, increasing to 580, which has health experts worried about the possibility of eradication of the disease in the country.  

While many experts hope for the future eradication of malaria, they worry that Sri Lanka is a sign that, despite public health measures, politics may detrimentally affect the spread of the disease, the New York Times reports.

Sri Lanka, an island that was that former British colony of Ceylon, is famous fir cinnamon and tea. Because it is waterlocked, there is a possibility for eradication of the disease.

When Sri Lanka became independent in 1948, there were an estimated one million cases of malaria annually. The introduction of DDT and chloroquine to the country dropped annual cases to only 18 by 1963. As DDT fell into disfavor, spraying was cut back and the number jumped back up to 500,000 cases in 1969.

At the same time, the country fell into civil war between the Buddhist Sinhalese and the Hindu Tamils. Malaria continued to persist during this time, though the country dropped below 2,000 cases, with some undercounting in rebel areas, according to the New York Times.

The rebellion was defeated last year and malariologists hoped a new national reconciliation policy would lead to total malaria eradication. Cases ticked up and a ministry official blamed global warming, which has been called a weak argument in such a wet tropical country, the New York Times reports. The official also stated that more clinics would soon be opened in areas formerly occupied by rebels.