Asia-Pacific to jointly address malaria and COVID-19

Published: 21, May 2020

On World Malaria Day, we highlight Asia-Pacific’s progress against malaria and the historic opportunity to end this disease within a generation. Over the past fifteen years, we have halved the number of malaria deaths and cases in the region.

This year, we are faced with a crisis that jeopardizes this success. Now more than ever, we must unite to protect our hard-won gains against malaria and effectively address existing and emerging threats to global public health. This is an opportunity to remind ourselves that robust and resilient health systems are not optional; they are critical to our lives, economies, and societies.

Our theme for World Malaria Day – “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” – truly captures our regional ambition to end a preventable and curable disease by 2030. With increased leadership, the right investments, and strong collaboration, a ‘zero malaria’ Asia-Pacific is within our reach.

The Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance, Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination and M2030 collaborated with partners to keep malaria elimination high on the agenda even with the challenges of COVID-19. Partners drove a lot of World Malaria Day media activity in the region and beyond.

Sci-Dev Net Asia-Pacific published an opinion on the threat of COVID-19 on global supply chains and the need to address this, authored by Jeff Smith (APLMA), Dr Ronald PiervincenziCEO of United States Pharmacopeia and Professor John Lim, Executive Director of the Centre of Regulatory Excellence at the Duke-National University and former Chief Executive Officer of Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority. 

M2030 Champions are leading the charge for businesses to step up and take action against malaria and COVID-19.  In an opinion piece published by the Jakarta Post, Jonathan Tahir, Co-chairman of Tahir Foundation points out the reasons why efforts to eliminate malaria have been so successful. Dr Christoph Benn and Dr Wit Soontaranun co-authored an op-ed for Bangkok Post on the perils of ignoring malaria and other communicable diseases. M2030 Champions Melvyn Pun and Win Win Tint penned an opinion piece for Myanmar Times on how successful strategies for malaria elimination can also help win the fight against COVID-19.

Another article by Southeast Asia Globe featured Dr Arjen Dondorp sharing Mekong nations' steady march towards complete elimination by 2030. Global Cause UK and the Guardian published an article on the need to strengthen the systems for health that are critical to fighting multiple diseases. This is through a joint interview by Jeff Smith at APLMA, Dr Sabine Dittrich, Head of Malaria and Fever at FIND, Dr Philippe Duneton a.i., Executive Director at Unitaid, and Dr Nick Hamon, Chief Executive Officer at IVCC.

In addition, a social media toolkit was developed and sent to more than 3,000 partners globally for amplification of World Malaria Day key messages and visuals. A digital campaign series entitled Zero Malaria: Voices from Asia-Pacific features 28 stakeholders highlighted opportunities and challenges of malaria elimination in the region.

Even beyond global health days, the region knows that an infectious disease threat anywhere is a health threat everywhere. Robust systems for health are our first line of defense against epidemics. On World Malaria Day, we recognize that to “Zero Malaria” means investing in resilient and sustainable systems for health.

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