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IN conjunction with World Malaria Day on April 25, Roll Back Malaria Partnership’s head of external relations Herve Verhoosel talks about the fight against the disease
What is World Malaria Day?
Instituted by the World Health Assembly at its 60th session in May 2007, it is an opportunity for us to learn from each other and to support one another’s efforts, activate resources and join the global partnership against malaria, highlight scientific advances and showcase proven efforts that indicate promising results if scaled-up.
We have much to celebrate — we have made incredible strides against malaria in recent years but we must not lose sight of our goals and the challenges that lie ahead.
What is Roll Back Malaria Partnership?
It is the global framework for coordinated action against malaria. Founded in 1998 by Unicef, WHO, UNDP and the World Bank and strengthened by the expertise, resources and commitment of more than 500 partner organisations, RBM is a public-private partnership that facilitates the incubation of new ideas, lends support to innovative approaches, promotes high-level political commitment and keeps malaria high on the global agenda by enabling, harmonising and amplifying partner-driven advocacy initiatives.
What role can Malaysia play in helping RBM achieve its goals?
While Malaysia doesn’t face a malaria problem, the country is a critical partner in the fight against this preventable and treatable disease. The country is well positioned to lead regional efforts, particularly as we work to prevent the very real threat of an emerging resistance to the most effective antimalarial drugs we have on the market. We see it developing in some areas of the Asia Pacific.
Why is it so important to invest in global malaria control efforts?
With malaria control, we know that the return is high and the cost is low. The simple, proven tools we have to prevent and treat malaria account for some of the most cost-effective health interventions of our time, and they have the potential to lift entire generations around the globe out of poverty.
When we prevent malaria infection or death, we not only save lives but we accelerate progress in other health and development areas as well, including reducing school absenteeism, fighting poverty, and improving maternal and child health.
What is the current status?
In the past couple of years, we’ve seen significant progress against malaria. We’ve decreased global malaria deaths by one-third, and 43 countries worldwide have reduced their malaria cases or deaths by half. And, enough insecticide-treated nets have been distributed to cover nearly 80 per cent of the population at risk in sub-Saharan Africa.
Still, our successes are partial and fragile as almost half the world’s population remains at risk.
Despite unprecedented advances in prevention, diagnostics and treatment, malaria continues to infect 216 million people each year, killing more than 650,000. Our successes are many, but they are partial and fragile.
They need to be replicated across all regions affected by malaria. They also need to be sustained and expanded to prevent malaria from coming back where it’s been eliminated.