H.E. Dr Lotay Tshering, Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bhutan, addressed the 2021 Asia Pacific Leaders Dialogue for Malaria Elimination today with an appeal to galvanize action towards ending malaria, the world’s oldest pandemic.
At the 13th December 2021 virtual gathering hosted by the Ministry of Health Bhutan, Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA) and Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN), senior government officials from across the region recommitted to accelerate the fight against the devastating disease in a time marked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With less than a decade left to reach the 2030 elimination goal as pledged by Asia Pacific Heads of Government at the 9th East Asia Summit, the Hon’ble Prime Minister urged countries to step up the fight against malaria through political leadership and regional collaboration.
“Bhutan is extremely proud to host this year’s Asia Pacific Leaders Dialogue. Achieving the aspirations of the 23 Heads of Government committed to a malaria-free region takes an extraordinary effort. Upholding leadership commitments is critical as is sharing of technical expertise, best practices, and data. Today is a powerful demonstration that momentum is on our side. Tackling borderless issues like malaria elimination and COVID-19 requires an all-hands on deck approach to end this disease once and for all,” said H.E. Dr Lotay Tshering, Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bhutan.
“Despite the ongoing global pandemic, we must not lose sight of accelerating progress towards malaria elimination – a preventable and treatable disease which has been eliminated by 40 countries worldwide. This Leaders Dialogue signals high-level political action needed to protect the region from malaria and future health crises,” said H.E Dasho Dechen Wangmo, Hon’ble Minister of Health Bhutan.
The event gathered high level representation from the region, including H.E Senator the Hon. Zed Seselja, Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific, H.E Culwick Togamana, Hon’ble Minister of Health and Medical Services, Solomon Islands, His Excellency Dr. Sophon Mekthon, Hon’ble Vice Minister of Public Health Thailand and Dr Pandup Tshering, Honourable Health Secretary, Bhutan.
Representatives of Asia Pacific national malaria programs were also present together with, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for SouthEast Asia and Dr Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Director for Western Pacific, Dr Abdourahmane Diallo, CEO of RBM Partnership to End Malaria, the Global Fund, Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security, and other key international and regional global health organisations, donor agencies and civil society organizations.
“We are grateful to the Prime Minister of Bhutan for his extraordinary leadership. As a regional leaders’ alliance, we recognise the utmost importance of political leadership to realise the vision of a malaria-free Asia Pacific by 2030,” said Dr Sarthak Das, CEO of APLMA.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened to undermine Asia Pacific’s progress toward malaria elimination. But it has also underscored the importance of resilience and collaboration. Strong leadership commitment enabled countries to swiftly re-prioritise malaria elimination strategies and sustain malaria elimination activities. Political will is incredibly important, but that alone is not enough.
"The Kingdom of Bhutan has set an extraordinary example for the region and the world that demonstrates the power of cross-sectoral collaboration and a whole of government approach.”
To conclude the Leaders Dialogue, the Co-Chairs endorsed the Call to Action statement that highlighted three key actions to achieve malaria elimination:
(1) Adopt a Whole of Government Approach by establishing/re-invigorating Inter-ministerial Task Forces to address cross-sectoral challenges to malaria elimination; (2) Develop joint cross-border elimination plans to ensure effective implementation of harmonised activities at ground level and (3) Ensure sustained funding for malaria service delivery and establish synergy with broader health systems funding to create programmatic efficiency.
“As the world progressively responds and learns the lessons from the test of resilience we have endured during the pandemic, driving key actions towards malaria elimination is a pre-requisite to strengthen overall health systems capable of defeating both existing health threats like malaria and emerging new ones like COVID-19,” said Drew McCracken, APLMA Senior Director, Government Affairs and Policy.
“Now is the time to increase regional leadership and resources needed to protect the gains we have made against malaria over the last two decades, address remaining high-burden areas, and mitigate the long-term impact of COVID-19 on malaria, to eventually defeat it, as outlined in our new report.”
There is no room for complacency in the road to malaria elimination – over two billion people in Asia Pacific continue to remain at risk of malaria. APLMA and APMEN stand committed to support Asia Pacific’s pursuit to be malaria-free by 2030, and to support the region’s most vulnerable communities by mobilizing innovations and tailored solutions across stakeholders.
Source: Press Release
Report cited “Malaria Elimination Amidst COVID-19: A Test of Resilience in Asia Pacific”. More information available at: https://www.aplma.org/malaria-and-covid-19-pandemic
About APLMA and APMEN
APLMA is an affiliation of Asia and Pacific heads of government, formed to accelerate progress against malaria and to eliminate it in the region by 2030. APLMA was created by the East Asian Summit (EAS) leaders in 2013 to further strengthen anti-malaria efforts, both to help protect hard- won national gains and, ultimately, to defeat malaria in the region altogether. To guide this work, the Asia Pacific Leaders’ Elimination Roadmap sets out the strategic priorities for achieving the 2030 goal www.aplma.org
The Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN) is a network of countries and stakeholders, committed to eliminate malaria in Asia Pacific by 2030 www.apmen.org