The Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA) and Unitaid today launched a collaborative platform to accelerate access to innovations to halt the spread of malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases in the Asia Pacific region. Malaria continues to be a global health threat, killing 445,000 people a year.
The new platform, known as the Vector Control Platform for Asia Pacific (VCAP), links national regulators, policy-makers, industry, academia and the global health community to boost development and use of antimalarial tools, such as mosquito nets and insecticides.
Effectively controlling mosquitoes is essential to preventing the diseases they spread and is a critical element of improving regional health security. Achieving the 2030 goal of eliminating malaria throughout Asia and the Pacific will depend on development of new ‘vector control’ tools and ensuring their widespread access.
“We need new tools to stop mosquitoes, but small markets and slow bureaucracies are instead killing innovation”, said Dr Ben Rolfe, CEO of the APLMA Secretariat. “It’s simple. We won’t eliminate malaria unless we get new recommended technologies to market fast and this is the gap that the new vector control platform is looking to fill.”
The knowledge-sharing platform is one of the first initiatives under a new Unitaid/APLMA collaboration aimed at driving regional progress towards malaria elimination. The partnership links the two organizations with other malaria control stakeholders, through co-hosting specific events and identifying opportunities to support governments, donors and other partners.
The new platform was announced during the 1st Malaria World Congress taking place this week in Melbourne. The backdrop for the meeting was a 2017 World Health Organization (WHO) report showing that although the rate of new malaria cases has fallen dramatically over the past 15 years, progress has recently stalled. In 2016, there were 5 million more cases of malaria worldwide than in 2015, bringing the total number of malaria cases to 216 million.
“The launch of this new platform comes at the right time as Unitaid expands its investment portfolio in vector control,” said Lelio Marmora, Unitaid Executive Director. “Even though insecticide-treated bednets and indoor sprays have been effective in preventing malaria to date, the reality is that we need new tools to address the emergence of insecticide and drug resistance if we are going to make headway in ending malaria.”
Global health experts describe malaria as having arrived “at a tipping point” where strong action and funding is needed to push it toward elimination.
Unitaid’s malaria investments are expected to reach US$ 300 million by end 2018, a doubling since 2015, and will expand to US$ 450 million by 2020. A large proportion of the projects focus on targeting high-risk populations in low-income, high transmission settings, primarily focusing on children under five and pregnant women.
Recently completed Unitaid-funded projects have made notable contributions against malaria. The Improving Severe Malaria Outcomes project, implemented by Medicines for Malaria Venture, amplified the use of injectable artesunate, a cutting-edge, lifesaving treatment for severe malaria in children, at a more affordable price. Based on current projections, injectable artesunate could save an additional 66,000 children's lives each year by 2021. According to WHO, malaria kills one child every two minutes.
Photo credit to Pearl Gan in association with EOCRU, Jakarta ; OUCRU, Vietnam and The Wellcome Trust, UK.