World Malaria Day 2018 statement by Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific

25 April 2018

World Malaria Day, commemorated every 25 April. This year WHO joins partner organizations in promoting the World Malaria Day theme, Ready to Beat Malaria. This theme underscores the collective energy and commitment of the global malaria community in uniting around the common goal of a world free of malaria. The theme highlights the commitment of Leaders of the Asia Pacific to attain a malaria free Asia Pacific by 2030.

The Western Pacific Region has made significant progress in efforts to control and eliminate malaria since the year 2000. The total number of malaria cases reported in the region in 2016 was 581,000, with 341 deaths. However, 82% of cases and nearly 90% of malaria deaths are in Papua New Guinea – our highest burden country.

Between 2010 and 2015 alone the region has reported a 30% reduction in malaria case incidence rate is 30% and a 58% reduction in mortality rate. Both achievements are higher than global achievements for the same period.

A particular challenge in the region is partial resistance to artemisinin and its partner antimalarials comprising artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs), the first line treatments for malaria reported from the Greater Mekong Subregion. Since the implementation of the Emergency Response to Artemesinin Resistance in 2013 and adoption of the Strategy for malaria elimination in the Greater Mekong Subregion 2015 - 2030, the annual number of malaria cases in the GMS fell by more than 85% from 2012 to 2016; malaria-related deaths fell at nearly the same rate.

This success was achieved by malaria-endemic countries in the Region through strong political commitment of leaders of Asia Pacific countries in calling for malaria elimination by 2030, commitment of donors and partners in supporting national efforts. The endorsement of the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030 (GTS) by the World Health Assembly in 2015 and the Regional Action Plan for Malaria Control and Elimination in the Western Pacific 2011-2015 by the Regional Committee in 2016 will further contribute to accelerating control and elimination.

Increased financing made possible the widespread use of vector-control methods, improved access to accurate parasite-based diagnosis, effective treatment and sound programme management, which all contributed to the achievement of this success.

Although the Regional Action Framework for Malaria Control and Elimination in the Western Pacific 2016-2020 aims to build on this success and further accelerate progress through prioritizing investments in strengthening surveillance, a reduction in financing is threating progress in some of the highest burden countries in the region. A reduction in available finances has contributed to an upsurge in several of these countries last year, highlighting the need for sustained financing.

The ambitious goals contained in the regional framework to reduce malaria mortality by 50% and morbidity by at least 30% in the region, by 2020, relative to 2015 baselines; could be in jeopardy if adequate funding is not available.

This year’s World Malaria Day coincides with the start of a year-long series of activities to commemorate the 70th anniversary of WHO. Thus, WHO is calling on malaria-affected countries, partners and donors to boost investments and efforts to reduce malaria burden through coordinated efforts including strengthening national capacities and ownership, funding for the scale up of preventive interventions to ensure universal coverage of all at risk populations in the Region.

With strong political commitment, adequate resources and coordination of efforts, we will be ready to beat malaria and an end malaria for good.