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Malaria: The view from Indonesia

Isolation and poor access to hospitals complicates malaria treatment.

Exacerbating the situation is the country’s diversity of mosquitoes. There are more than 20 different kinds, which carry five different strains of the malaria virus.

“Malaria remains one of the most contagious and dangerous diseases in Indonesia,” Supari said.

Millions of mosquito nets and anti-malarial drugs have been distributed to the hardest-hit areas, but health officials admit that what remains the biggest obstacle to fighting malaria is the inability of health workers to reach remote areas.

Every month in Jakarta, workers walk through neighborhoods, spraying dark corners, sewers and ponds in order to kill off mosquitoes. In the province of Papua, however, where malaria is most prevalent, no such program exists.

“Access to remote areas is very important,” Kusriastuti said. “There is often no transportation in remote areas; health workers must walk for hours, sometimes days, to reach some places.”

The lessons of Ngreco, however, have not gone unnoticed, and there are renewed efforts across the country to improve infrastructure and access.

The Mentawai islands off the coast of South Sumatra have always been famous for their remoteness. Home to pristine white sand beaches where tribes retain cherished traditions, they have also been one of the most malaria-prone regions. Increased boat service and improved inland roads, however, have begun to help.

And now the government has a roadmap aimed at the total eradication of the disease here by 2030.

“Since 2000, a lot of progress has been made. In 2000 there were 15 million infections every year, now there are 2 million. Malaria in Jakarta and on the island of Bali has been almost totally eradicated,” Kusriastuti said. “Despite the many challenges, I believe the situation is improving and that we are on track to eradicating the disease completely by 2030.”

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