In Asia, a new alliance to fight malaria

A malaria patient in Thailand. A multidonor trust fund to fight malaria and other health risks won endorsement from learders attending the annual East Asia Summit. Photo by: Novartis AG / CC BY-NC-ND

The Asian Development Bank is now in discussion with its partners to establish a multidonor trust fund for malaria and other health risks, an official of the bank told Devex.

The trust fund is part of a broader initiative called Asia-Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance, which won endorsement from leaders attending the annual East Asia Summit. APLA is designed to serve as the venue for different member countries in the region to cooperate and find solutions to the disease.

“The APLMA task force on regional malaria financing will explore options for filling this gap, including the possibility of regional mechanisms,” Patricia Moser, ADB’s lead health specialist, told Devex.

According to data from the World Health Organization, almost half of the 7 billion people in the world is at risk of contracting the disease, with a good portion — more than 2 billion people — coming from the Asia-Pacific region.

Zero malaria incidence

Moser said the resurgence of the infections due to lack of continuous prevention and cure programs presents one of the biggest reasons why malaria continues to beset the region.

Fighting the disease, she argued, shouldn’t stop when the number of reported cases goes down but when these cases stop happening.

“As countries are able to control malaria incidence and deaths, malaria loses prominence in the public sector planning and budgeting cycle, as well as for health systems management,” Moser said. “But the potential risk of resurgence remains, so case reduction is definitely [just] one element.”

In Southeast Asia alone, fully scaling up malaria control activities until 2015 would need almost $450 million, according to WHO.

Under the initiative, private partners from inside and outside the region may be encouraged to contribute to the goal of reducing malaria cases and death by 75 percent by 2015, Moseer said. The task force will provide policy recommendation on malaria by July 2014.

Beyond health

According to Moser, the fight against malaria not only involves people’s health but also a country’s economic and social well-being.

“Asia and the Pacific have achieved a lot in malaria control and containment of artemisin resistance, but to go the rest of the way will require actions beyond those of the health sector,” she said.

This includes working across sectors such as regional trade rural industries where the incidence of the disease is high due to the nature of the activities. As such, coordination between countries in the region is crucial.

“Given the regional public goods nature of malaria control — all countries benefit from each country’s success, it may be worth considering a regional ‘membership’ mechanism in which countries contribute according to means to ensure regional health security, including containment of artemisin resistance and, eventually, regional elimination of malaria,” she concluded.

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About the author

  • Lean 2

    Lean Alfred Santos

    Lean Alfred Santos is a Devex development reporter focusing on the development community in Asia-Pacific, including major players such as the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Prior to joining Devex, he covered Philippine and international business and economic news, sports and politics. Lean is based in Manila.