Malaria

Speech by Dr Shin Young-soo: My dream is a malaria-free Western Pacific

Dr Shin Young-soo

Speech delivered by Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, at the opening session of the regional consultation on the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria: 2016-2025.

Manila, Philippines
10 June 2014

Dr Reeder, Acting Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme and Director of the Tropical Disease Research Programme;

Dr Brandling-Bennett, Co-Chair of the Global Malaria Action Plan 2 Task Force;

Distinguished representatives of the Ministries of Health and of the national malaria programmes of the Region;

Colleagues;

Good morning. Welcome to Manila and the Regional Consultation on the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria.

While we have had many important meetings on malaria in recent years, today's meeting is very special. You will be working on the draft Global Technical Strategy for Malaria: 2016-2025. This strategy is a major milestone in the long struggle against malaria. It will change the lives of hundreds of millions of people in this Region and around the world.

As you will see, the draft is entitled “Malaria 2025: Accelerate to Eliminate”. This title perfectly summarizes what must be done. It is a call to arms. It lays out the roles that each of us must play in battling the disease.

We need to work harder and faster. We need to use the tools we have more effectively. And we need to make innovative use of new technology as it becomes available. Rather than just controlling the disease, malaria burden and transmission must be reduced aggressively – as we push to cross the finishing line to elimination.

Participants of the WPRO regional consultation on the Global Technical Strategy 2016-2025 in Manila, Philippines
Participants of the WPRO regional consultation on the Global Technical Strategy 2016-2025 in Manila, Philippines

The strategy will provide the technical foundation for the next version of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership’s Global Malaria Action Plan, or GMAP2. A separate consultation on GMAP2 will take place after this event. The goal is to launch the two companion documents next year.

Over the past decade or so, we have seen huge successes in the fight against malaria. Progress accelerated notably once significant external funding became available, largely through the Global Fund.

Between 2000 and 2012, confirmed malaria cases in the Western Pacific Region were reduced by about 30% to 299 000. During the same time, reported malaria deaths dropped by more than 80% to 460. I applaud Member States for these tremendous achievements.

Let me also take this opportunity to congratulate Cambodia, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Viet Nam. They have already reached the World Health Assembly target for 2015 – to reduce the malaria burden by 75% from 2000 levels.

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic is expected to achieve the same target – despite a twofold increase in malaria cases in 2012. It also appears that Papua New Guinea may achieve the 2015 target, if recent progress continues.

In addition to the lives saved, these achievements have caused a remarkable change in thinking. For a long time, malaria elimination appeared to be a lost cause. Now, it seems possible in the Region.

Just five years ago, we introduced malaria elimination as a regional goal. Now all 10 malaria-endemic countries in our Region have elimination in their national malaria plans, with Papua New Guinea the most recent to join.

While this is all very encouraging news, we must not lose sight of the challenges ahead.

The problem of financing tops the list.

When I talk to leaders in the Region, I can see there is sufficient political support for elimination. But financial resources for malaria are shrinking, which may dash the ambitious goals of our Member States.

At the same time, successes against malaria have led some governments to divert resources, thinking the battle against malaria has been won. As you know – in the age of drug resistance – they couldn't be more wrong.

A lack of regulatory control and enforcement has led to the inappropriate use of medicines, the proliferation of substandard and fake drugs and the ongoing availability of oral artemisinin monotherapies in some countries.

These problems – and too many others to list here – have played a role in the emergence of malaria drug resistance, especially artemisinin resistance in a number of Southeast Asian countries.

More than anything else, artemisinin resistance has the power to undo many recent advances on malaria. Clearly, we must address this threat by incorporating health systems issues into our discussions on technical issues.

Strengthening health systems will also improve our ability to reach those people at greatest risk of malaria – such as indigenous groups, migrant and mobile populations and people living in remote or conflict-prone areas.

These groups often do not have access to good quality medicines or health care through the public sector. Not only do these communities suffer disproportionately from malaria, they also carry the risk of spreading the disease and fostering drug resistance.

We need to work harder to reach and support these people. In addition to better use of the tools we have today – such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets, rapid diagnostic tests and artemisinin-based combination therapies – we must find new ways to combat the disease.

This is why the global technical strategy for malaria is so important. The strategy will provide a unified global approach for Member States to use in tailoring strategies to their country's needs.

At the same time, the strategy will encourage and incorporate technical innovations to guide Member States in moving towards elimination and, ultimately, eradication of human malaria.

The work you will be doing here is part of a global process. Member States from all WHO regions, plus international experts and WHO staff, will review the draft strategy to ensure that the end product is of maximum usefulness to Member States over the next 10 years.

You are here today because you have indispensable technical knowledge. What's more, many of you possess a deep understanding of the situation on the ground in your home countries.

Let’s use all those skills and work together to ensure that the impressive gains over the past decade are sustained – and that progress towards malaria elimination is accelerated.

My dream is a malaria-free Western Pacific Region.

Thanks to the hard work and collaboration of Member States, WHO and other stakeholders and donors, we are moving in that direction.

I wish you productive consultations and a pleasant stay in Manila.

Thank you.

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