Vikas Joshi, Australia,5 November 2012 : Australia is providing $5 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) over the next three years as part of a project jointly sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to deal with the emerging threat of drug-resistant malaria in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.
Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek announced the funding today at a meeting of the region’s ministers focussed on reversing the impact of the deadly disease in the worst affected areas of the Asia Pacific.In 2010, there were over 30 million malaria cases and around 42,000 deaths in the region, according to the WHO.
Minister Pilbersek said the disease impacts disproportionately on the poor and on children under five, and has major economic and development implications.
“Malaria is found in 22 countries in the Asia Pacific region with over 2 billion people at risk of the disease. In the Greater Mekong of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar we are seeing the emergence of resistance to our most effective anti-malarial treatment,” she said.“Drug-resistant malaria is proving to be a substantial obstacle to global efforts to eliminate the disease.
“National responses to the threat of drug resistance are not sufficient, it will take a regional and global response if we are to achieve the goal of reducing malaria deaths in the Asia Pacific by 75 per cent by 2015.”
Current and future gains in controlling and eliminating malaria are threatened by a range of challenges, the most pressing being the emergence of drug (Artemisinin) resistance in the Greater Mekong
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is contributing $10.6 million to the WHO project, to be used with Australia’s funding to coordinate the emergency response to Artemisinin resistance in the Greater Mekong.
The funding will support a team of technical experts, to be based in WHO regional offices, which will coordinate and lead the regional response to Artemisinin drug-resistant malaria.
Artemisinin resistance was one of the key issues discussed at this week’s Malaria2012: Saving Lives in the Pacific conference, which culminated today with a ministerial action meeting.
The conference has brought together over 300 delegates from more than 30 countries and 134 organisations to address issues such as the emergence of drug-resistant malaria in the Asia-Pacific region.