a man riding on the back of smoke: A municipal worker fumigates an area to kill off mosquitoes. NSTP/ASYRAF HAMZAH


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A municipal worker fumigates an area to kill off mosquitoes. NSTP/ASYRAF HAMZAH

LETTERS: Government officials from across Asia Pacific have come together during virtual Malaria Week 2020, to reaffirm their commitment to eliminating malaria and strengthening health systems to keep the region safe from health threats.

Embracing the theme of “Inclusion. Integration. Innovation.”, officials called for increased collaboration and action to accelerate towards the goal of ending malaria in the region by 2030, at a time when major gains and regional progress are under threat due to disruptions caused by Covid-19.

Hosted by the National Institute of Malariology, Parasitology and Entomology (NIMPE), Ministry of

Health, Vietnam, the 5th APLMA Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) brought together senior officials from 14 nations in Asia and the Pacific.

Malaria Week 2020 culminated with country malaria leaders, a member of India’s Parliament, internationally renowned malariologists, and global leads from

organizations such as the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), Harvard University, and the World Health Organization’s Malaria Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC).

These senior officials encouraged nations to protect and accelerate malaria progress through sustained political leadership and investments in robust surveillance systems, integrated data platforms, and capacity building efforts.

“We have seen undeniable progress in Asia Pacific over the past decade due to the strengthened commitment from leaders and increased funding. We must commit to staying the course with continued involvement of community and private sector to enhance the fight – especially in these

times when malaria is increasing in high-burden countries,” said Prof. Tran Thanh Duong, Director, NIMPE.

Globally, progress against malaria has stalled, yet Asia Pacific has made remarkable gains – reducing

deaths by 85 per cent in the last decade. However, the challenges in malaria elimination are significant.

“We must continue to see opportunity where there is crisis and find light in an otherwise dark time. For those of us in malaria and global health, this means ensuring that we relentlessly strive to find specific synergies between malaria, pandemic response, and health systems to prevent losing ground and, instead, accelerate our progress towards elimination,” said Dr Sarthak Das, Chief Executive Officer, Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA).

“Covid-19 has highlighted the structural weaknesses and inequalities of our health system. We cannot continue with a ‘business as usual’ approach. It is our collective responsibility to ramp up investments and implement innovative strategies and concerted interventions to tackle malaria among hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations,” commented Mr Gaurav Gogoi, member of Parliament and founding member of Indian Parliamentarians for Malaria Elimination.

During the Senior Officials’ Meeting, officials from health, finance, foreign, and interior agencies resolved to stay the course to eliminate malaria from Asia Pacific by 2030. They agreed on policy solutions for engaging partners across sectors and to invest in solutions that make it easier for

countries to find, test and treat every case.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is having a serious impact on the most vulnerable and marginalised communities. Fighting two life-threatening diseases at once requires innovation, inclusion, and collaboration,” said Amita Chebbi, Senior Director of Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network

(APMEN).

“Sustaining our collective efforts towards malaria elimination will not only help to save millions of lives, but also strengthen our health systems to mount an effective response for Covid-19 and confront other health challenges.”

ASIA PACIFIC LEADERS MALARIA ALLIANCE,ASIA PACIFIC MALARIA ELIMINATION NETWORK

Singapore

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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