(29 September, Yangon, Myanmar) More than 100 leaders from the health, development and corporate sectors have gathered in Yangon to participate in the seminal regional forum on Opportunities for Corporate Sector Engagement in Malaria Control in the Asia-Pacific. In advance of the 2015 enactment of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement and broader ASEAN economic integration, this one-day meeting seeks to identify tangible opportunities for strengthened public-private partnerships to support regional malaria control strategies and drive progress toward country-specific development targets.
Health leaders urge that the corporate sector can and should play a central role to continued success of regional malaria control efforts. With large-scale private sector projects giving way to a highly mobile workforce, experts reiterate that stronger public-private partnerships will strengthen efficiencies, expand access for hard-to-reach communities and spur innovations in the face of challenges like drug resistance.
“Now more than ever, engagement from all sectors – including corporate enterprises – to sustain regional malaria control activities and drive broader development is paramount,” Deputy Director of the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership, Dr. Thomas Teuscher, said while moderating the morning’s opening plenary session. “Through the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, with opening borders and booming economies, we have a tremendous opportunity to work across sectors and borders, particularly in the Greater Mekong sub-Region, to ensure value for our investments and maximize the impact of our malaria control efforts.”
With 22 malaria-endemic countries accounting for approximately 32 million cases of infection each year and 47,000 associated deaths, the Asia-Pacific region carries the second highest burden of disease outside of Africa. Intense scale-up of interventions in the Asia-Pacific has seen over 80 million cases and over 100,000 deaths to malaria averted since 2000, with many countries reducing and – in some cases like Japan, Singapore and Taiwan – even eliminating the disease. However, some 2 billion people in the region remain at-risk of infection. India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea bear the largest burden of the disease, together accounting for 89% of all malaria cases in the region.
Increased financing will be critical to further advancements. In the Asia-Pacific specifically, international resources to fight malaria are predicted to shrink as some countries cut spending under the mistaken belief that the disease is on the wane. Specialists suggest that new funding sources,, including from international donors and national budgets, will be needed to scale-up elimination efforts and prevent a resurgence of the disease in areas where it is currently under control. International and domestic financing for malaria control efforts globally peaked at US $2.5 billion in 2012, amounting to less than half of the estimated US $5.1 billion needed annually through 2020 to achieve universal coverage of malaria control interventions around the world.
“We have seen huge progress as a result of highly effective drugs and generous international financing,” said Dr. Ben Rolfe, Executive Secretary ad interim of the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA). “As Asia grows, we have the opportunity to secure resources from within the region and eliminate malaria whilst the drugs we have are still effective. It will be critical to secure political will, and strong partnerships with the private sector if we are to see an Asia-Pacific free of malaria by 2030.”
Parasite resistance to artemisinin, the core compound in the WHO-recommended artemisinin-based combination therapy, has been detected in five countries in the Asia-Pacific region: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. If resistance were to spread to or emerge in India or sub-Saharan Africa, the public health consequences could be dire, as no alternative antimalarial medicine is available at present with the same level of efficacy and tolerability as ACTs.
Through a series of panel discussions and breakout sessions, the meeting’s organizing partners aim to mobilize non-state and corporate actors to support regional strategies through local workforce and community programs, public-private partnerships and innovative financing initiatives that will help unlock additional resources to eliminate malaria and effectively reduce the spread of drug resistance. Examples of existing programs and engagement opportunities were drawn from countries throughout the region, including Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Papua New Guinea and Viet Nam.
Co-hosted by the RBM, APLMA and GBCHealth – in partnership with the Myanmar Health and Development Consortium, Malaria No More and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and with the financial support of Sanofi – this one-day forum comes just months before Myanmar will host the ASEAN and East Asia Summits in November and reaffirms the country’s role as an emerging leader in the region’s response to malaria.
“GBCHealth is pleased to support our partners in engaging the private sector in the Asia-Pacific on malaria control and elimination efforts,” said Sancia Dalley, Director overseeing GBCHealth’s corporate malaria programs. “Our experience working with companies across Africa have yielded excellent lessons in workplace program development and community engagement efforts that can be applied to this region and ultimately provide shared value for corporate and public sector stakeholders”.
Malaria control has consistently proven to be one of the best global health investments, generating high return on low investments. Impacting all 8 of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), malaria prevention and treatment serves as an entry point to help advance progress against other health and development targets across the board by reducing school absenteeism, fighting poverty, and improving maternal and child health. With less than 500 days until the 2015 deadline of the MDGs and beyond, continued success toward a malaria-free region will require commitment across all sectors to continue scaling-up activities, saving lives and, ultimately, sparking greater economic development.
For more information, to arrange a media interview or for inquiries related to potential attendance at the forum, please contact:
Mr. Trey Watkins
Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership
+1 347 931 0667; +95 (0) 99 7231 7323
*Mr. Watkins will be available at the Sule Shangri-La in Yangon from 27-29 September.
Ms. Isabella Sway-Tin
Myanmar Health & Development Consortium
Under the coordination of RBM and the technical leadership of the World Health Organization, malaria death rates have decreased by approximately 42% globally and 49% in Africa alone – where 90% of all malaria-related deaths still occur – since 2001, contributing to a 20% reduction in global child mortality and helping drive progress towards the UN MDG 4. Collective efforts have helped avert an estimated 3.3 million deaths between 2001 and 2012 – 69% of which were in the 10 countries with the highest malaria burden in 2000 – and more than half of the 103 countries that had ongoing malaria transmission in 2000 are meeting the MDG of reversing malaria incidence by 2015.
Despite these advances, almost half of the world’s population remains at risk from malaria, with an estimated 207 million cases of infection around the world each year and 627,000 deaths. Around the world, a child still dies from malaria every minute.
The Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM)
RBM is the global framework for coordinated action against malaria. Founded in 1998 by UNICEF, WHO, UNDP and the World Bank and strengthened by the expertise, resources and commitment of more than 500 partner organizations, RBM is a public-private partnership that facilitates the incubation of new ideas, lends support to innovative approaches, promotes high-level political commitment and keeps malaria high on the global agenda by enabling, harmonizing and amplifying partner-driven advocacy initiatives. RBM secures policy guidance and financial and technical support for control efforts in countries and monitors progress towards universal goals.
The Asia-Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA)
APLMA was born out of the 2013 East Asia Summit and seeks a malaria-free Asia-Pacific, aiming to contain the spread of drug resistant forms of malaria and reduce malaria cases and deaths by 75% by 2015 by expanding the fight against the illness out from the health sector into the arenas of regional trade in counterfeit or low-quality medicines, migration, deforestation and climate change. To accelerate progress on malaria control and elimination and accelerate containment of artemisinin drug resistance, APLMA will unite countries and promote regional political leadership and collaboration; APLMA will drive progress and accountability to reduce malaria cases and deaths by 2015 and contain the spread of drug resistant malaria, undertake high level policy advocacy in the Asia-Pacific and keep malaria high on the region’s agenda.
GBCHealth is a non-profit organization dedicated to leveraging the power and resources of the private sector to meet today's most pressing health challenges, including accelerating business action to achieve the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Founded in 2001 under the leadership of Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, GBCHealth has worked with hundreds of companies, individually and in partnership, to address health issues in their workplaces and communities where they operate. GBCHealth currently serves as the Focal Point for the Private Sector Delegation to the Global Fund Board, as the Focal Point for the Roll Back Malaria Partnership's Private Sector Constituency, and as the lead implementer of the Corporate Alliance for Malaria in Africa (CAMA).