Malaria cases and fatalities reported in 2015 and 2016 have shown no signs of decline, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report. This is despite the home insecticides market, which includes mosquito repellents and personal application creams, growing at a nearly double-digit rate for the last five years.

India accounts for 6% of malaria cases and 7% of deaths related to the disease, said the WHO report published in November.

Consumers will have to make preventive measures a habit if India is to become malaria-free by 2027, manufacturers of home insecticides said on the occasion of World Malaria Day, which fell on April 25. This, however, is lacking, they said.

The manufacturers also said that the government will have to play a key role in this regard. “The government needs to take up malaria eradication with the same seriousness that it has tackled some of other big issues like polio in the past," said Ullas Kamath, joint managing director, Jyothy Laboratories Ltd, the maker of Maxo home insecticides.

On its part, Jyothy Laboratories has worked on increasing the accessibility and affordability of its products. Maxo is now available at three million outlets, a three-fold increase from the one million outlets. The cost of its liquid solutions has come down to Re1 per night from Rs3 at the beginning of the 21st century, said Kamath.

Jyothy Laboratories and other home insecticide manufacturers such as Dabur India Ltd and Godrej Consumer Products Ltd (GCPL) are also working with the government in creating awareness about malaria and its prevention. In January, GCPL signed a non-financial, tripartite memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Department of Public Health and Family Welfare, Government of Madhya Pradesh, and Family Health India (FHI), a local affiliate of FHI 360 (a US-based NGO) to make Madhya Pradesh malaria free. GCPL’s project, Elimination of Mosquito Borne Endemic Diseases (EMBED), addresses about 45% of the malaria burden in Madhya Pradesh and has recorded a 5% increase in testing for malaria and dengue in the pilot districts of Mandla and Dindori, the company said in a statement in January.

Yet, there is a lot to be done. “One of the biggest deterrents is consumer behaviour towards the category," said Rohit Prakash Gupta, marketing head, home and skin care, Dabur India Ltd.

In developed countries, personal application products such as mosquito repellent creams and roll-ons account for a substantial part of the mosquito repellent market. In India, this category is less than 3% of the overall home insecticides market, said Gupta. People need to wear repellents when they step out, go to the park, playground or to school, he said.

According to Gupta, though people wear fairness creams which have chemicals in them when it comes to mosquito repellents they shy away as they have misconceptions that the products are chemical based, cause a rash, or have an odour. Some people are also lethargic about applying a cream.

Dabur is working on an extensive school programme where girls are made to try the product.

“There is a need to build more awareness as people still don’t feel the need to take preventive measures when they step out," said Anirban Banerjee, head of innovation, GCPL. The company has over the past three years introduced products like Good knight Fabric Roll-on, which is made from natural ingredients like Citronella oil and needs to be applied on the fabric as versus the skin to repel mosquitoes to address some of these concerns. However, even these are yet to see traction.

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