Melanesian leaders stand together to beat malaria

Published: 23, April 2018
Photo: The Prime Ministers of Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and the Republic of Vanuatu, accompanied by the Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells (right)

Leaders of three Pacific Island nations have joined forces to steer their countries on a clear path to defeating malaria, committing to the regional goal of ending the disease by 2030.

The Prime Ministers of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and the Republic of Vanuatu recently took a stand together in a renewal of their commitment to a malaria-free Melanesia, by mutually endorsing the common Asia Pacific Leaders’ Malaria Elimination Roadmap. They also acknowledged the critical importance of achieving malaria elimination in the Pacific as a key step in protecting their own nations, as well as achieving the overall regional goal.

Speaking at the recent London Malaria Summit that took place alongside the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London, the Hon. Rick Houenipwela, Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, noted that the commitment marks a historic occasion in the fight against malaria in the Pacific. “As leaders of some of the blue continents’ most populous nations, we have come here together to signal our unwavering commitment to malaria elimination, and to endorse the Elimination Roadmap,” he said. “Malaria negatively affects the economic performance of our countries, with growth rates in malaria-endemic countries significantly lower than those without the disease.” The Prime Minister also welcomed the new partnership between the Asian Development Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

The Hon. Peter O’Neill, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea (PNG) also commented on the human impact of malaria. “We all know that malaria affects the poorest in our communities. But being poor does not mean we should deny their right to a healthy, productive life,” he said.

Malaria control and elimination efforts in Asia Pacific countries have achieved impressive reductions in malaria over the past decade, but progress is uneven and the disease continues to be a significant public health issue. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Solomon Islands and PNG alone account for over 90% of all malaria cases reported in their Western Pacific Region.

The Hon. Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas, Prime Minister of Vanuatu highlighted some of his county’s recent malaria achievements. “We are seeing some great progress. In 2017, malaria elimination was achieved in most provinces. No malaria-related deaths have been reported in Vanuatu since 2012,” he said. “By 2028, Vanuatu aims to be completely malaria-free and today I am delighted to be endorsing, on behalf of my government, the APLMA Malaria Elimination Roadmap to reaffirm our commitment.”

“We are committed to accelerating progress. However, all small island states such as Vanuatu will continue to rely on external support from partners, such as the Government of Australia, and the Global Fund. We call for greater united efforts and increased cooperation, as together we will defeat malaria,” he added.

The London Malaria Summit brought together global political, business and science leaders to help accelerate progress towards ending the disease. The diverse community of Commonwealth countries is in a prime position to lead us back on track. These nations are home to a third of the world’s population, and nearly one billion of its young people. They endure half of all malaria deaths globally, and have a wealth of related experience and success stories to build on.

“We are proud to stand together with the international community – and with the Commonwealth, in fighting malaria in the coming years,” added Prime Minister O’Neill.

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