Manila – The number of malaria cases in Asia Pacific countries has dropped by over 45% since 2000, according to new estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO). New data published this week by the Geneva-based UN health agency reveal impressive regional progress as countries move towards malaria elimination, with prevention efforts saving millions of dollars in health care costs.
The World Malaria Report 2015 presents a country-by-country breakdown of the latest global malaria data. It highlights remarkable Asia Pacific progress to defeat the disease in small and large countries alike.
In Sri Lanka, for example, the latest local malaria case was reported over three years ago, in October 2012; the country is now focused on preventing malaria reintroduction, showing tremendous advance from a baseline of over 200,000 cases in 2000.
The report also describes rapid progress towards malaria elimination in China, where the disease remains only in limited areas, particularly in the border regions of Yunnan Province in the south of the country. China suffers from a large number of imported malaria cases, primarily from sub-Saharan Africa and also from neighbouring Lao PDR and Myanmar.
“As the global burden of malaria declines, new challenges have emerged,” said Dr Pedro Alonso, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme. “In many countries, progress is threatened by the rapid development and spread of mosquito resistance to insecticides. Drug resistance could also jeopardize recent gains in malaria control.”
WHO cautions that malaria resistance to artemisinin—the core compound of the best available antimalarial medicines—is being tracked in five countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS): Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. In response, GMS countries have established a strategy to eliminate malaria in the next 15 years.
The new WHO malaria statistics reflect a determined commitment by Asia Pacific Leaders to defeat the disease. Just last month, the 18 East Asia Summit (EAS) Leaders prioritized malaria for discussion alongside regional security and stability, territorial disputes and economic partnership. During the Summit they endorsed a regional ‘roadmap’ to rid the region of malaria completely in the next 15 years.
Despite the reported progress, WHO estimates that about 3.2 billion people—or nearly half of the world’s population—are still at risk of malaria. Over two-thirds of those vulnerable people live in the Asia Pacific region.
“Since the start of this century, investments in malaria prevention and treatment have averted over 6 million deaths,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “We know what works. The challenge now is to do even more.”
About the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA): APLMA is an affiliation of Asian and Pacific heads of government formed to accelerate progress against malaria and to eliminate it in the region by 2030. The Alliance was formed by the 2013 East Asia Summit in Brunei due to concerns among leaders about the rising risks of malaria resurgence, in particular due to increasing drug-resistant malaria.
About the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN): APMEN is a network of 18 Asia Pacific Country Partners (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of Korea, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vanuatu and Vietnam) that share a common goal to eliminate malaria, either at the national or sub-national level.
Tim France, External Communications Team Lead, APLMA. T: (+66) 89 8554672 E: tfrance [at] aplma.org
Arna Chancellor, Program Manager, APMEN. T: (+61) 73365 5446 E: apmen [at] sph.uq.edu.au