Pacific Friends of Global Health is calling on the next federal government to urgently invest in the battle to fight malaria in the Pacific and South East Asia, with cases and deaths on the rise.
Today marks World Malaria Today and despite years of steady progress, the fight against the disease has stalled. This has been made worse as a result of the world diverting its attention and resources to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pacific Friends of Global Health Chair Brendan Crabb AC said funding has plateaued and the next Australian Government must contribute more to bring the world and our region back on track.
“The annual global death rate from the disease has almost halved over the last 20 years and Australia has helped achieve that extraordinary success. However, low-income countries have experienced a resurgence, particularly in our region,” Professor Crabb said.
“Papua New Guinea has the highest malaria transmission rates outside of Africa and the COVID-19 pandemic has only put further strain on the country’s health systems.
“767 million people are at risk in the Western Pacific alone. Globally, the disease kills one child every minute.
“Malaria is treatable and curable, and until now, the fight against malaria was one of humanity’s biggest public health successes. But even before COVID, we were losing ground. We can’t afford to take our foot off the accelerator.
“We can help our region tackle both COVID and malaria by providing assistance to develop a strong front-line response.
“This includes strengthening healthcare systems to handle multiple disease outbreaks and expanding access to new and existing tools to prevent, detect and treat the disease.
“No single intervention can eliminate malaria alone, but we do have a good suite of tools available to hit it from multiple angles, such as insecticide treated bed nets, spatial repellents and the new RTS,S vaccine. It’s vital that they reach those communities who need them most.
“One of the most effective ways to enable this is for the Australian Government to invest $450 million at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s 7th replenishment.
“We must also continue to invest in the development of new innovations to tackle the disease, particularly to address the growing rates of insecticide resistance.
“With such a high toll, clearly reducing the malaria death toll is a direct humanitarian imperative. But it is also essential to lifting many communities from poverty, aiding their transition into stronger economies. That’s why key malaria reduction targets are part of the Sustainable Development Goals, perhaps the key global blueprint for human progress.
“This will not only save lives globally but prevent the loss of hard-fought health and development gains we have made in our region and across the world.”