In the lead-up to World Malaria Day, recognized around the world annually on 25 April, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM) and the Asia-Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA) gathered corporate leaders, government officials, foreign diplomats, development experts and civil society for an event in New Delhi to urge greater private sector engagement and cross-sector collaboration to advance the fight against malaria.
With 22 malaria-endemic countries in the Asia-Pacific, the region is home to an estimated 2.1
billion people at risk of infection and accounts for approximately 28 million cases of malaria
infection and 45,000 associated deaths each year. While the Western-Pacific has seen a
reduction in malaria mortality by an estimated 42% since 2000, the entire Asia-Pacific region
continues to carry the second highest malaria burden outside of Africa. India, Indonesia,
Myanmar, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea bear the largest burden of the disease, accounting for 89% of all malaria cases in the region.
“Enthusiastic endorsement for APLMA, as seen amongst leaders attending the 2013 East Asia
Summit, presents a unique opportunity to help the region work together to scale up malaria
interventions and move them beyond borders and state lines,” said Benjamin Rolfe, Executive Secretary ad interim of APLMA. “To do this, we need governments, bednet and insecticide manufacturers, drug makers, border officials, climate change activists and others involved in the fight against malaria working better together.”
Speaking at a press conference before the event in New Delhi, RBM and APLMA urged greater financial investment in regional malaria-control efforts, including from the private sector, and highlighted the importance of collaboration within and between sectors to overcome remaining challenges and further advance progress against malaria. As borders become more open in the Asia-Pacific, yielding more viable regional cooperation and investment opportunities, speakers noted the tremendous opportunity for engagement of partners from various industries to scale-up malaria control efforts in the region.
“Accounting for 85% of all cases and 91% of deaths from malaria outside of Africa, malaria
continues to carry significant economic toll on the Asia-Pacific,” said Mr. Herve Verhoosel, RBM Representative at the United Nations in New York and Head of External Relations. “We have a tremendous opportunity to leverage the power of booming economies in the region to unlock resources and scale-up malaria-control interventions that will save lives and foster greater development for all. I call on the private sector to join with region’s government leaders to help scale-up efforts and overcome challenges like resistance that threaten progress.”
Resistance to the most effective course of treatment for malaria – Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs) –has been confirmed in five countries in the Asia-Pacific region: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The threat poses a very real risk to progress achieved to date, as the spread of this resistance could leave the estimated 3.3 billion people at risk of malaria around the world with no effective course of treatment against infection.
Malaria control has consistently proven to be one of the best global health investments,
generating high return on low investments. Impacting all 8 of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, malaria prevention and treatment serves as an entry point to help advance progress against other health and development targets across the board by reducing school absenteeism, fighting poverty, and improving maternal and child health. Recently, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated this when speaking at an RBM event in Brussels: “Healthy communities create more vibrant, inclusive societies that allow people and economies to thrive. Malaria clearly illustrates this. Since the Millennium Development Goals were launched, we have seen proof that fighting malaria is a good investment that saves lives and speeds up economic progress.”
With stronger coordination under RBM partners and technical guidance by the World Health
Organization, and increased international financing for malaria, malaria interventions have been scaled-up at unprecedented levels.
According to the WHO’s 2013 World Malaria Report, malaria death rates have decreased by
approximately 42% globally and 49% in Africa alone – where 90% of all malaria-related deaths still occur – contributing to a 20% reduction in global child mortality and helping drive progress against the UN MDG 4. Collective efforts have helped avert an estimated 3.3 million deaths between 2001 and 2012 – 69% of which were in the 10 countries with the highest malaria burden in 2000 – and more than half of the 103 countries that had ongoing malaria transmission in 2000 are meeting the MDG of reversing malaria incidence by 2015.
Despite these advances, almost half of the world’s population remains at risk from malaria, with an estimated 207 million cases of infection around the world each year and 627,000 deaths. Around the world, a child still dies from malaria every minute.
Increased financing will be critical to further advancements, as current international and domestic financing for malaria of US $2.5 billion in 2012 amounts to less than half of the US $5.1 billion RBM estimates is needed annually through 2020 to achieve universal coverage of malaria control interventions.
World Malaria Day has been recognized annually around the world since 2007.