Message of Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, to the Regional Meeting for Malaria Programme Managers: Achieving the 2015 Targets and Moving Towards Malaria Elimination

Regional Office, Manila
8 May 2013

Representatives of ministries of health and national malaria programmes of Cambodia, China, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Viet Nam;

Colleagues from the Global Malaria Programme and the WHO country offices;

Distinguished guests from the Philippines and other countries;

Ladies and gentlemen;

Good morning. I am happy to see so many familiar faces here today.

To those of you who are joining us for the first time, welcome to the Regional Office and to Manila.

These are busy days in the fight against malaria.

Perhaps for the first time, we sense that we have the disease on the run and that a malaria-free Asia Pacific is within our grasp.

I will let the numbers tell the story:

Between 2000 and 2011, the morbidity rate of confirmed malaria in the Western Pacific Region fell by 46%. In the same period, the mortality rate went down by 73%.

Nine of the 10 malaria-endemic countries in the Western Pacific are now embarking on malaria elimination and implementing elimination strategies.

I commend your commitment to reduce significantly the malaria burden by 2015 — in line with our Regional Action Plan for Malaria Control and Elimination in the Western Pacific for 2010 to 2015, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and the 2005 World Health Assembly resolution on malaria control.

But progress against malaria has not been uniform.

Some countries — such as the Philippines and Viet Nam — have already reached their 2015 targets

Others are moving more slowly.

Some achievements can be credited to the remarkable investments made by our development partners over the decade or so.

Without naming any specifically, I would like our partners know how grateful we are for their generosity and commitment. We would not be where we are now without them.

In addition, there has been a heartening surge in political support for our efforts over the past year.

For instance, the ASEAN health ministers identified malaria and artemisinin resistance as priority issues — for the first time ever — at a July meeting in Thailand.

Similar commitments came out of a high-level malaria meeting organized by the Australian Government in Sydney in November.

Delegates from more than 30 countries called on Asia Pacific leaders to build on successes and intensify the fight against malaria and artemisinin resistance in the Region.

Malaria also figured high on the agenda of the 7th East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The summit included heads of state from ASEAN, plus eight other countries including Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and the United States.

Leaders threw their support behind controlling and eliminating malaria in the Asia Pacific. They pledged to strengthen national and regional responses to artemisinin resistance.

They also acknowledged the leading role of WHO in working with countries to develop technical responses to malaria control and elimination, especially drug resistance.

So this is where we are today.

Money is coming in though, of course, we need much more.

And after years of seeming to be an afterthought, malaria has risen towards the top of the agenda.

However, we have formidable challenges ahead.

The emergence of artemisinin resistance in four countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion is perhaps the most serious of them.

WHO recently launched its framework for the Emergency Response to Artemisinin Resistance in the Greater Mekong Subregion, which is designed to contain and eliminate artemisinin-resistant malaria parasites.

And a WHO regional hub, located in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, has been established to coordinate response activities.

But there are other challenges – including the question of how to reach marginalized communities and how to achieve universal access.

There are also deep concerns about whether health systems are strong enough to enable these things to happen.

And, of course, the challenge of ensuring we have the funds we need to get the job done never ends.

Colleagues, 2015 is approaching fast. Together, we have to map out a path that will lead us to those targets.

The time has probably never been better to get a grip on malaria. We have unprecedented political commitment. We have the tools. And we have strong and committed partners.

Now let's get the job done.

Thank you.