Australian interview with UCSF Global Health Group’s Sir Richard Feachem on malaria elimination: “The progress is stunningly positive around the world.”

Sir Richard Feachem, Director of the UCSF Global Health Group, was in Brisbane, Australia this week to receive an honorary degree from the University of Queensland School of Public Health for his work on malaria elimination.

During an interview with ABC’s Radio National, Feachem cited three key contributors to the rapid pace of malaria elimination progress in the region: increased financing over the last decade (including by the Global Fund – which Australia has supported since 2004), the emergence and deployment of novel technologies, and country commitment to malaria elimination. Elaborating on country commitment, he explained that “Country after country in Asia Pacific has said ‘Control is not enough. We’re not going to be passive or fatalistic about malaria. We’re going to get rid of it.’ Sri Lanka got rid of it three years ago – quite dramatically. China is close behind, Bhutan is close behind, and Malaysia is close behind them. So we’re going to see a wave of countries not just controlling but actually stamping it out completely in their borders, and that’s going to sweep across Asia Pacific.”

Feachem also addressed concern about the emergence of antimalarial drug resistance in the Asia Pacific region: “What we have is the emergence of resistance by the malaria parasite to the most commonly used drug worldwide [artemisinin], and that resistance is emerging in the Greater Mekong Subregion: Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. There’s a big international effort to stamp out that resistance before it spreads more widely. It’s definitely a regional health security threat and a global health security threat because if resistance did proliferate and break out of the region, it would set back progress worldwide.”

Feachem’s interview – highlighting the Global Fund’s support in driving down malaria in Asia Pacific and Australia’s recent commitment of $200 million over three years to the Global Fund – is timely. Today Japan hosted a preparatory conference for the Global Fund’s replenishment. This will be the fourth replenishment round since the Fund was formed in 2002.