East Asia Summit endorses new malaria leaders alliance

11 October 2013

Convening in Brunei for the annual East Asia Summit on 10 October 2013, 18 leaders endorsed the creation of an Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA). Co-chaired by the prime ministers of Australia and Viet Nam, APLMA will unite countries and promote regional political leadership and collaboration in the fight against the disease.

The Asia-Pacific region has made significant progress in combating malaria but the disease remains a major cause of illness and death with an estimated 36  million new cases and around 49 000 deaths each year. India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Myanmar and Papua New Guinea have the highest burden of disease.

“As the world’s leading health agency, WHO pledges its support for APLMA and its objectives. We believe that together, along with the efforts of all our partners, we can reach the day that the Asia Pacific is free of the scourge of malaria,” said Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, in a statement.

The initiative has been born out of the Malaria 2012: Saving lives in the Asia-Pacific conference, hosted by the Government of Australia in October 2012, and the malaria declaration agreed at the 7th East Asia Summit in Cambodia in November 2012, focusing on the urgent threat of artemisinin resistance.

"We believe that together, along with the efforts of all our partners, we can reach the day that the Asia Pacific is free of the scourge of malaria."

Dr Shin Young-soo

APLMA’s work will be supported through two technical taskforces. The Taskforce on Regional Financing will examine options for sustainable funding mechanisms to ensure that financing for the fight against malaria remains strong until the disease is eliminated in this region. Political commitment and funding often fades once the malaria burden is reduced, leaving countries vulnerable to resurgences and epidemics.

The Taskforce on Improving Access to Quality Medicines and Other Technologies will work to increase regional production and access to quality medicines, and seek to reduce the availability and use of low-quality and inappropriate anti-malarial medicines that increase the risk of drug resistance.

Recognizing the economic and social impacts of malaria, and the need for expanded multi-sectoral collaboration, the Asian Development Bank, headquartered in Manila, the Philippines, has agreed to host the Secretariat for APLMA.

“Beyond its human toll, malaria’s social and economic costs are devastating in countries where the disease is endemic. Malaria – particularly the emergence of artemisinin-resistant malaria – is a major development challenge, requiring strengthened regional collaboration, sustainable solutions and predictable financing,” said ADB President Takehiko Nakao.

Urgent action needed to address artemisinin resistance

Artemisinin-resistant malaria is a regional public health threat that does not recognise national borders. Resistance is currently restricted to Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam but given increasing population movements in the Asia-Pacific, the geographic scope of the problem could widen quickly, posing a health risk for many countries with on-going malaria transmission.

In April, WHO launched its Emergency Response to Artemisinin Resistance in the Greater Mekong Subregion, a regional framework for action for 2013–2015. This framework for action is designed to provide affected countries and global malaria partners with a strategic direction to scale up malaria interventions in order to contain resistant strains, and move towards elimination of the disease. APLMA’s work will be carried out in close collaboration with WHO.

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