ISLAMABAD-With 1.6 million malaria cases being reported per annum, Ministry of Health has decided to formally launch the Malaria Control Programme for the next five years across the country with an estimated cost of Rs 3.4 billion mainly focusing on 56 high risk districts to reduce the disease 50 percent by the end of next year. Addressing a press conference to mark the World Malaria Day on Saturday, Secretary Health Khushnood Akhtar Lashari said that the federal government would be responsible for formulating strategies while provincial government would implement the programme. Head of the Directorate of Malaria Control Programme, Dr Irfan Qureshi was also present on the occasion. The programme would focus on strengthening provincial health centres besides involving private sector to control malaria. Lashari added that 900 new microscopy canters would be established in the country. He said that out of total allocated amount, the government had acquired Rs 1.6 billion from global fund established to control malaria. The provincial governments would contribute Rs 1.3 billion while the federal government would contribute Rs 658 million from its resources. The Directorate of Malaria has decided to strengthen as many as 615 public diagnostic in public sector while availability of rapid diagnostic tests will be introduced for speedy identification of the disease up to basic health unit level, he further informed. A survey conducted by Directorate of Malaria Programme identified these areas where malaria has become a threat due to the weak public health infrastructure in these impoverished parts of the country. He said that 70 per cent population in these 56 high risk districts will have access to malaria treatment while 100 per cent falciparum cases will be provided free of cost artemesinin combination therapy. The secretary informed that a reference laboratory network would be established across the country at provincial and district levels besides establishing National Institute of Malaria for Research and Training in Lahore as centre of excellence for disease related research and training. To achieve the required coverage of the 80 per cent indoor residential spraying on targeted union council, ministry of health has a plan to fumigate around 9 million households countrywide, he added. To a question, he said according to World Health Organisation (WHO) 1.6 million malaria cases report in Pakistan every year. Being signatory of the Roll Back Malaria initiative the government has accorded a high priority for control of malaria along with six communicable diseases he further added. Whereas reducing malaria morbidity to 50 percent by the year 2010 is one of the commitments made in terms of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), and with just one year left, Pakistan seems far away from achieving the target. It is pertinent to mention here that according to World Health Organisation (WHO) Pakistan reports around 1.6 million cases per annum with 1,13,000 deaths out of the total reported cases. Pakistans Roll Back Malaria programme has always remained a low profile programme due to which authorities attached with the project failed to achieve its objective. Lack of available resources and political will are some of the main hurdles, commented a health ministry official requesting anonymity.