A 1.5-year-old girl is being treated for malaria at the Dian Harapan Hospital in Jayapura, Papua. (Antara Photo)

Southeast Asia on Track to Cut Malaria Cases by 40 Pct


DECEMBER 01, 2020

Singapore. Countries in Southeast Asia are set to meet the global target of a 40 percent reduction in malaria cases this year and on a clear path towards eliminating the mosquito-borne disease in the next decade, according to the World Health Organization report released on Monday.

The Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA) and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria welcome the report, saying that these achievements suggest countries “have held the line in protecting historic gains against the disease despite the unprecedented challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

According to the report, the Greater Mekong Subregion has reduced malaria cases and deaths by over 90 percent since 2000, while in India – the country with the highest burden of malaria outside of Africa – cases were reduced by 1.2 million over the last two years.

Furthermore, China and Malaysia have both registered zero malaria cases for three consecutive years. That puts both countries on-track to be certified malaria free next year, joining a list of 10 countries that have reached the milestone since 2000.

“The Greater Mekong Subregion has made tremendous progress towards elimination, even in the face of growing insecticide and drug resistance, reducing malaria cases and deaths by over 90 percent since 2000,” Professor Yongyuth Yuthavong, a malaria scientist and former Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, said in a statement.

“This achievement is in no small part thanks to the development and scale up of life-saving tools, many of which were not available 20 years ago, and cross-border collaboration that improved and increased surveillance,” added Yuthavong, who is also a member of the RBM Partnership.

Asia-Pacific leaders set a target in 2016 to achieve a 40 percent reduction in malaria cases by 2020 and to eliminate the disease by 2030.

Since 2000, the region has reduced cases of malaria by 69 percent and related deaths by 70 percent. India made a significant contribution to this achievement, reducing malaria cases from 20 million to just over 5 million in 2019, according to the report.

“Consistent leadership across much of Asia Pacific amidst emerging antimalarial resistance and Covid-19 has protected hard-earned progress over the past decade. While there is much to celebrate in regard to progress, we must continue to not only support nations on the verge of elimination but also ensure that higher-burden countries like India, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea are not forgotten,” Dr Sarthak Das, CEO of the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance, said in a statement.

Since 2000, the world has made tremendous progress against malaria, saving 7.6 million lives and preventing 1.5 billion new infections. In 2019, 409,000 people died from malaria and there were 229 million malaria cases globally.

“Malaria’s impact in 2020 would have been much worse if not for the incredible efforts by countries and their partners, but the reality is that every malaria death today is avoidable. We have seen how the malaria toll, especially among young children, increases during health crises. We must continue to tackle malaria and COVID together to save more lives and protect heath systems,” said Dr Abdourahmane Diallo, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria.