ASEAN political commitment critical to sustain malaria gains
Press release, 04.07.2012Tweet
4 July 2012, Phuket, THAILAND –As the ten member countries gather at the ASEAN Health Ministerial Meeting, the Government of Thailand and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM) convene a high-level consultation during the event to urge greater political support for on-going malaria control efforts in the region.
Evidence of emerging resistance to the most effective antimalarial drugs has recently put the region in the global spotlight. Experts fear that if resistant malaria strains spread to other regions and continents, the only treatment currently available against the deadliest form of malaria – the artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) – may lose its efficacy and that many of the significant gains of the past decade could be reversed.
“Much is at stake in Asia right now,” says Dr Thomas Teuscher, RBM Executive Director, a.i. “Thanks to the World Health Organization, we have good containment plans and sound technical guidance on how to deal with this threat. What is needed now is that countries in the region show strong political will to put malaria control higher on regional and national agendas and push for securing additional funding to implement the Global Plan for Artemisinin Resistance Containment.“
“The malaria situation for ASEAN countries is mixed but we still face common challenges to which we need to find solutions together,” Dr Wichai Satimai, Director of Bureau of Vector Borne Disease at the Thailand Ministry of Health. “Collaboration among countries in the region is critical to tackling persistent pockets of the disease in the region and resolving key technical challenges. Thailand is pleased to work with our neighbours in hosting this side-event on malaria at the ASEAN health ministers meeting.”
With 6% of the global malaria death toll and 13% of the estimated malaria cases in 2010, South East Asia is the second most-affected region in the world. Malaria has declined where economic development, urbanization and deforestation have changed the face of some nations in recent decades. As countries grow more prosperous, they are also investing more in health services and malaria control programmes, helping to reduce the malaria burden even further. But as the disease retreats, it persists in many remote rural communities and border areas, partly because of less development and poorer access to health services, but also because infections are easily introduced across borders.
"Most of the remote areas in Thailand are free of malaria except in the border areas of Thailand with Myanmar, Cambodia and Malaysia that still have cases resulting from the movement of people," says Dr Wichai Satimai. "Remote areas of Thailand that still have cases now have dedicated staff who can rapidly test for malaria and provide the latest treatment."
Malaria transmission in remote, forested areas in the region is high due to the presence of highly efficient mosquito vectors. Indigenous tribal minorities represent a major malaria risk group, often living in remote hilly areas, with poor access to and use of health care facilities.
According to the WHO, around 330 million people in the ten ASEAN nations are at some risk of malaria exposure.
The Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM) is the global framework for coordinated action against malaria. Founded in 1998 by UNICEF, WHO, UNDP and the World Bank and strengthened by the expertise, resources and commitment of more than 500 partner organizations, RBM is a public-private partnership that facilitates the incubation of new ideas, lends support to innovative approaches, promotes high-level political commitment and keeps malaria high on the global agenda by enabling, harmonizing and amplifying partner-driven advocacy initiatives. RBM secures policy guidance and financial and technical support for control efforts in countries and monitors progress towards universal goals. The RBM Secretariat is hosted at WHO in Geneva, Switzerland.