APLMA Calls for a Unified Approach and Increased Urgency in the Malaria Fight: World Malaria Report 2023 shows rise in cases, alongside progress in Asia Pacific
Mosquito nets distributed in Pakistan. Credit: DMC, Pakistan 2021
- A unified approach is still key to malaria elimination by 2030.
- WHO estimates(1) show there were 10 million malaria cases in the Asia Pacific region(2) in 2022—a 2 million increase from 2021.
- Extreme weather events in Pakistan and diverse programmatic challenges in Papua New Guinea were strong drivers of case increases.
- Bhutan achieved zero indigenous malaria cases for the first time, as did Timor-Leste for the second consecutive year.
Singapore, 1 December 2023 – The World Health Organization’s (WHO) annual World Malaria Report 2023 was published yesterday, just ahead of the first-ever Health Day at COP28. While Africa continues to endure the highest malaria burden, WHO estimates show that Asia Pacific experienced a 24% increase in malaria cases within just one year. Pakistan’s climate-related malaria resurgence was the main factor for this high increase.
Commenting on the publication of the latest report, Dr Sarthak Das, Chief Executive Officer, APLMA said:
“Globally, the world experienced an increase of five million cases between 2021 and 2022, largely concentrated in just five countries. Of these five countries, two are from Asia Pacific: Pakistan and Papua New Guinea. While much of Asia Pacific is at the last mile of elimination, two billion people remain at risk of malaria in our region. Our work to end malaria must continue undeterred to strengthen systems in Asia Pacific, particularly for our most vulnerable communities. In addition, climate change has added a new layer of complexity which means we must redouble our efforts now.”
For the first time, the 2023 report includes a chapter on climate change and malaria, recognizing climate change’s inextricable link to health and well-being. Extreme flooding in Pakistan worsened by climate change led to population displacement and socioeconomic devastation as well as a five-fold increase in reported malaria cases—from just over 500,000 cases in 2021 to 2.6 million in 2022.
Dr Muhammad Mukhtar, Director, Directorate of Malaria Control, Government of Pakistan said:
“Pakistan experienced a natural disaster as a result of climate change with an 190% increase in rainfall, but it was the aftermath which led to ideal conditions for malaria: large areas of standing water, 20 million internally displaced people, insufficient bed nets and an over-stretched health system. Malaria must remain a priority even in times of disaster, which requires strong emergency planning and efficient distribution of emergency support.”
In other parts of Asia Pacific progress was mixed. In the Western Pacific region, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu are not on target to achieve the WHO’s Global technical strategy (GTS) for malaria(3) targets by 2025. While progress against malaria was made in the Western Pacific since 2000, both cases and deaths resurged between 2021 and 2022 by 30% and 37% respectively—with nearly 90% of all cases in the Western Pacific occurring in Papua New Guinea.
In the Southeast Asia region, despite the recent case increases in Myanmar, Thailand, Bangladesh and Indonesia, countries have made excellent progress against malaria since 2000 and remain on track to meet GTS Targets.
After near success was thwarted due to COVID-19 disruptions in 2020, Bhutan and Nepal have moved back on track by achieving zero indigenous cases and zero indigenous malaria deaths respectively. Timor-Leste maintained zero indigenous malaria cases for the second consecutive year, while China and Sri Lanka successfully defended their malaria-free statuses. Afghanistan, Cambodia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Vanuatu, and Viet Nam once again reported zero indigenous malaria deaths. Malaysia achieved zero human malaria cases for the fifth year, however rising cases of simian malaria (P. knowlesi) remains a serious concern. Amongst the 11 High Burden to High Impact (HBHI) countries(4), India reported the largest relative reduction in cases by 30%.
Underscoring the need for a unified multi-stakeholder approach that can transcend borders, on 6-7 June 2024 the Government of Papua New Guinea and APLMA will co-host the Asia Pacific Leaders’ Summit on Malaria Elimination in Port Moresby. A first for Melanesia, the Leaders’ Summit will engage high-level leadership as well as community voices across the Asia Pacific region in multisectoral discussion and collaboration to ensure further commitment and engagement towards zero malaria. Through this high-level forum and ongoing efforts from partners around the world, we can unite and ensure urgent action is taken to end malaria by 2030.
Notes to editors
(1) All data and estimated cited are from the World Malaria Report 2023 unless otherwise noted. More information is available at: World Malaria Report 2023.
(2) APLMA unites 22 governments in Asia Pacific—across WHO regions Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR), South-East Asia Region (SEAR), and Western Pacific Region (WPR)—who have committed to eliminating malaria in the region by 2030. APLMA defines Asia Pacific as: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu, Viet Nam.
(3) The Global technical strategy for malaria 2016-2030 (GTS) called for reductions in malaria case incidence and mortality of at least 75% by 2025 compared to a 2015 baseline.
(4) “High Burden to High Impact” is a country-led response catalysed by WHO and the RBM Partnership as a mechanism to support the 11 highest burden countries to get back on track to achieve the GTS 2025 milestones.
About APLMA and APMEN
APLMA is an affiliation of Asia and Pacific heads of government, formed to accelerate progress against malaria and to eliminate it in the region by 2030. APLMA was created by the East Asian Summit (EAS) leaders in 2013 to further strengthen anti-malaria efforts, both to help protect hard-won national gains and, ultimately, to defeat malaria in the region altogether. To guide this work, the Asia Pacific Leaders’ Elimination Roadmap sets out the strategic priorities for achieving the 2030 goal. aplma.org
The Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN) is a network of countries and stakeholders, committed to eliminating malaria in Asia Pacific by 2030. apmen.org
For further information and media enquiries:
Alta Alonzi – APLMA; E: [email protected]
Rachael Teo – GCI Health; E: [email protected]