Asia Pacific Leaders Unite in Renewed Call to Eliminate Malaria Amidst the Pandemic

Press Release

by APLMA

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· H.E. Dr Tandi Dorji, Hon'ble Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bhutan addressed Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Leaders Dialogue

· H.E. Shri Mansukh Mandaviya, Hon’ble Minister of Health and Family Welfare announced India will host Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance 2022 Senior Officials Meeting for Malaria Elimination

· New report shows resilience of Asia Pacific countries to continue malaria service delivery despite COVID-19

Singapore, 13 Dec 2021 – On behalf of the Prime Minister of Bhutan, the 2021 Asia Pacific Leaders Dialogue for Malaria Elimination was opened today by H.E. Dr Tandi Dorji, Hon'ble Minister of Foreign Affairs, with an appeal to galvanize action towards ending malaria, the world’s oldest pandemic. At the 13th December 2021 virtual gathering hosted by the Ministry of Health Bhutan, Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA) and Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN), senior government officials from across the region recommitted to accelerate the fight against the devastating disease in a time marked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With less than a decade left to reach the 2030 elimination goal as pledged by Asia Pacific Heads of Government at the 9th East Asia Summit, the Hon’ble Minister of Foreign Affairs urged countries to step up the fight against malaria through political leadership and regional collaboration.

“Bhutan is extremely proud to host this year’s Asia Pacific Leaders Dialogue. Achieving the aspirations of the 22 Heads of Government committed to a malaria-free region takes an extraordinary effort. Upholding leadership commitment is critical as is sharing of technical expertise, best practices, and data. Today is a powerful demonstration that momentum is on our side. Tackling borderless issues like malaria elimination and COVID-19 requires an all-hands on deck approach to end this disease once and for all,” said H.E. Dr Tandi Dorji, Hon'ble Minister of Foreign Affairs.

“Despite the ongoing global pandemic, we must not lose sight of accelerating progress towards malaria elimination – a preventable and treatable disease which has been eliminated by 40 countries worldwide. This Leaders Dialogue signals high-level political action needed to protect the region from malaria and future health crises,” said H.E. Dasho Dechen Wangmo, Hon’ble Minister of Health Bhutan.

Border regions continue to be one of the most challenging areas to eliminate malaria. India’s Hon’ble Minister of Health and Family Welfare highlighted the importance of cross-border collaboration, encouraging national leaders and sub-national officials to work together across borders and sectors. 

H.E. Shri Mansukh Mandaviya, Hon’ble Minister of Health and Family Welfare also added, “It is my honour to announce that India will host the 2022 Senior Officials Meeting for Malaria Elimination for the first time in its history. The meeting will coincide with the year of our nation’s 75th year of Independence.”

The event gathered high level representation from the region, including Hon’ble Mrs. Pauline McNeil, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Solomon Islands, H.E. Dr. Sophon Mekthon, Hon’ble Vice Minister of Public Health Thailand, H.E. Senator the Hon’ble Zed Seselja, Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific and Dr Pandup Tshering, Hon’ble Health Secretary, Bhutan. Representatives of Asia Pacific national malaria programs were also present together with Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia and Dr Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Director for Western Pacific, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme (GMP), Dr Abdourahmane Diallo, CEO of RBM Partnership to End Malaria, and representatives of the Global Fund, Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security, and other key international and regional global health organisations, donor agencies and civil society organizations.

“We are grateful to His Excellency Dr. Lotay Tshering, Hon’ble Prime Minister and His Excellency Dr Tandi Dorji, Hon'ble Minister of Foreign Affairs for their collaborative spirit in the effort to eliminate malaria across the Region,” said Dr Sarthak Das, CEO of APLMA. “The Royal Government of Bhutan serves as a global model of how political leadership coupled with the power of collaboration across sectors yield remarkable progress towards malaria elimination. At the same time, as COVID-19 teaches us on a daily basis, we must collaborate not only across sectors but across borders to achieve an Asia Pacific free from malaria by 2030. And in that spirit, we are grateful to India’s commitment to host the Asia Pacific Leaders Alliance 2022 Senior Officials Meeting; next year’s convening will further galvanize our collective march towards elimination and will coincide with India’s 75th anniversary of Independence.” 

To conclude the Leaders Dialogue, the Co-Chairs endorsed a Call to Action statement that highlighted three key actions to achieve malaria elimination: (1) Adopt a Whole of Government Approach by establishing/re-invigorating Inter-ministerial Task Forces to address cross-sectoral challenges to malaria elimination; (2) Develop joint cross-border elimination plans to ensure effective implementation of harmonised activities at ground level and (3) Ensure sustained funding for malaria service delivery and establish synergy with broader health systems funding to create programmatic efficiency.

“As the world progressively responds and learns the lessons from the test of resilience we have endured during the pandemic, driving key actions towards malaria elimination is a pre-requisite to strengthen overall health systems capable of defeating both existing health threats like malaria and emerging new ones like COVID-19,” said Drew McCracken, APLMA Senior Director, Government Affairs and Policy. “Now is the time to increase regional leadership and resources needed to protect the gains we have made against malaria over the last two decades, address remaining high-burden areas, and mitigate the long-term impact of COVID-19 on malaria, to eventually defeat it, as outlined in our new report*.”

There is no room for complacency in the road to malaria elimination – over two billion people in Asia Pacific continue to remain at risk of malaria. APLMA and APMEN stand committed to support Asia Pacific’s pursuit to be malaria-free by 2030, and to support the region’s most vulnerable by mobilizing innovations and tailored solutions across communities and countries.

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Notes to editors

The 2021 Asia Pacific Leaders Dialogue for Malaria Elimination full speaker list can be found here.

*Report cited Malaria Elimination Amidst COVID-19: A Test of Resilience in Asia Pacific”. More information available at: https://www.aplma.org/malaria-and-covid-19-pandemic

For more information and media enquiries:

Tashi Tshering – Ministry of Health Bhutan

E: [email protected]

Dimple Natali – APLMA

E: [email protected]

Janice Apilado – APLMA

E: [email protected]

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