The Jakarta Post
World leaders have launched new global and regional initiatives to end the lethal mosquito-borne infection malaria by strengthening new commitments, eradication strategies, tools and funding mechanisms.
Nafsiah Mboi, special envoy of the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA), told The Jakarta Post that malaria has again been placed as a priority on the global health agenda.
'Malaria is of great health concern with the resurgence of increasing drug-resistant malaria in the Greater Mekong subregion,' said Mboi, a former health minister, before leaving for New York for a UN meeting last week.
The region's leaders will come up with new roadmaps to eradicate the disease by 2030 during their upcoming meeting in Kuala Lumpur in November. 'The Asia-Pacific region is ready to be part of the global initiative to fight against malaria with new funding schemes, methods and strategies,' she said.
About 18 Asia-Pacific leaders established the alliance during an East Asian Summit in Brunei Darussalam in 2013 to double efforts to eradicate malaria from the region out of concerns of the disease's increasing drug resistance.
Meanwhile, Bill Gates, cochair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Ray Chambers, the UN Secretary-General's special envoy for financing the Health Millennium Development Goals and for Malaria, launched an in-depth report last Sunday on what it will take to eradicate malaria.
The report entitled From Aspiration to Action: What Will it Take to End Malaria? urged major donors and malaria-affected countries to expand their commitment to fight against malaria, and declared that eradication could save 11 million lives and unlock US$2 trillion in economic benefits.
In recent years, global investment in malaria has jumped by 2,000 percent annually ' from $130 million in 2000 to $2.7 billion in 2013. These resources have fundamentally transformed the fight against the disease. Malaria deaths have fallen dramatically ' saving an estimated 6.2 million lives and averting 663 million cases of the disease since 2000 ' and more than half of the world's nations are now malaria free.
Indonesia is among 22 countries in the Asia-Pacific region that have to face the endemic that causes an estimated 32 million cases and over 47,000 deaths annually. In addition, endemic countries have a massive chronic disease burden as millions of people carry the parasite but display no malaria symptoms, contributing to a perpetual cycle of disease transmission.
Primarily a disease of poverty, malaria can be prevented and treated through cost-effective interventions, but most countries do not have adequate funding or health infrastructure.
'The Asia-Pacific region is home to a 2 billion population with 61 percent of them living in places with poor sanitation, public facilities and health-care services. Indonesia is close to the Greater Mekong subregion where drug-resistant malaria can easily spread if we do not take prompt action,' Mboi said.
The 5,000-kilometer long Indonesian archipelago with 240 million people is the perfect habitat for over 20 anopheline vectors of malaria, which transmit four of the species of plasmodium that infect humans.
The vast geographical expanse together with the complexities of social, economic and political dimensions have created huge challenges in the country's malaria eradication efforts. Five provinces including Papua, West Papua, Maluku, North Maluku and East Nusa Tenggara contributed to escalating cases in Indonesia, with 1.38 cases per 1,000 people in 2014.
'Indonesia has been launching several malaria eradication schemes but with the present decentralization policy, it is provincial and regional administrations that are the main enforcers of the programs. The central government can provide funding and tools to do so, but if they [local administrations] refuse to implement the programs, the entire malaria eradication program or other health programs will fail completely,' she said.