Progress in times of a global pandemic: APLMA Leaders’ Dashboard 2020
by Dr. Sarthak Das DrPH & Amita Chebbi •
Credit: UNFPA Asia_Vanuatu
One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, health systems throughout the world have been tested in unprecedented ways. With 124 million reported COVID-19 cases in 219 countries and territories globally, the impact of the novel coronavirus has left virtually no corner of the world untouched. While the full impact of this global pandemic on the fight against malaria is yet unknown, there are positive strides to report as revealed by the APLMA Leaders’ Dashboard 2020. Our region has shown resilience in sustaining efforts against malaria and continued to push policy reforms to support the response against this old scourge. The progress along a series of policy milestones will no doubt contribute to stronger health systems and better preparedness against future infectious disease outbreaks.
Six policy milestones have turned green in 6 different countries:
- Vanuatu established the National Malaria Elimination Advisory Group, a multi-agency task force chaired by the Ministry of Health Director of Public Health and includes developments partners such as Vanuatu CCM, WHO, UNDP, Rotarians Against Malaria, James Cook University.
- Afghanistan has initiated case data collection from the private sector bringing the country one step closer to testing and treating every case everywhere.
- Cambodia has now mandated that all cases of malaria, for both P. falciparum and P. vivax need to be notified within 24 hours, to effectively prevent any new outbreaks.
- Pakistan launched the Pakistan Integrated Regulatory Information Management System with support from USAID to integrate the registration, inspection, licensing, and monitoring of approved medicines.
- Timor Leste updated their strategic plan and financial sustainability plan to reflect the fact they are malaria-free and to reorient their strategy towards prevention of reintroduction and to achieve WHO certification.
- Bhutan is conducting operational research, evaluating innovative tools and approaches to facilitate malaria elimination. For example, detecting asymptomatic malaria cases using novel diagnostic tools.
12 countries reported zero malaria deaths in 2019
An impressive 12 countries have reported zero malaria deaths in 2019 with Afghanistan, Lao PDR and Vietnam reporting zero deaths for the first time, a remarkable feat. Sri Lanka, China, Timor Leste and Malaysia remain indigenous malaria-free and Bhutan, with 2 indigenous cases in 2019 is set to join them soon. Bangladesh, Lao PDR and Timor Leste have made progress towards the formation of a malaria elimination task force, all of which are expected to be formally established this year 2021.
India’s consistent efforts for working towards a malaria free India, is commendable. With a sharp decline of 60% in confirmed malaria cases in 2019 compared to 2017, the WHO identified India as one of the few high burden countries globally showing a consistent decline in the malaria burden at a time when global progress against malaria has been plateauing.
Since 2010, the region has made tremendous progress and it is essential that we continue to work together, across government agencies, sectors, and across borders, to sustain progress to the 2030 elimination.
- Malaria cases in Asia Pacific have almost halved* in Asia Pacific since 2010. (*44%)
- Asia Pacific has 89% less deaths from malaria than 10 years ago
- 12 of the 18 countries with indigenous malaria cases have reported a decline in cases e.g., Bhutan (67% decline), Cambodia (47%), Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (49%) and Nepal (79%).
- The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) reported an 86% decline in cases and 97% decline in deaths since 2010.
- Recent WHO Mekong Malaria Elimination Epidemiology Summaries for the GMS show a 47% decline in malaria cases in 2020 over 2019.
- Seven countries have achieved all the policy milestones of the Leaders’ Dashboard, including China, the Democratic Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
Despite notable progress, 64% of the Asia Pacific population remains at risk of malaria.
This is cause enough not to lose momentum and keep our focus on strengthening the malaria response and broader health systems to ensure healthy lives for all, especially as we continue to see setbacks in remote areas among our most vulnerable populations.
The impact of the pandemic has ushered in new ways of working in global health with renewed commitment to local solutions. This is aligned with the efforts of malaria programs in the region that are tackling the last remaining areas of high endemicity and will require tailored sub-national solutions complemented by robust national and regional advocacy efforts.
The APLMA and APMEN Secretariat look forward to continue working with countries in Asia Pacific to support their efforts in this direction.