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Federal Budget, Political

Resolve and resources needed to end Malaria as a public health threat

Pacific Friends of Global Health 3 mins read

 

Pacific Friends of Global Health has strongly endorsed Australia’s $30 million commitment to malaria elimination in the Pacific, announced to mark World Malaria Day. 

 

“This is a strong commitment that builds on solid progress combating malaria in our region,” said Pacific Friends chair and Burnet Institute CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb AC. “Australia, and in particular Foreign Minister Penny Wong, is showing strong leadership on malaria. This welcome commitment reflects the world’s urgent need for greater resources and resolve to meet the goal of ending this ancient scourge as a major public health threat by 2030."

 

The $30 million investment includes $5 million to James Cook University to support Pacific countries to strengthen surveillance and control of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, dengue and zika. A new $8 million partnership with non-government health organisation PATH, in a consortium with Australia’s Burnet Institute and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, will also help develop new diagnostic tests targeted to our region.

 

The Commonwealth is also partnering with the Medicines for Malaria Venture, providing $17 million for the development of new malaria treatments including medicines suitable for use in pregnancy and for children.

 

Global progress in combating malaria is under threat due to conflict, climate change, and increasing resistance to insecticides, with nearly half the world's population at risk - including 2 billion people in our region. In 2022 alone, there were 10 million cases in the Asia-Pacific Region - a two million increase from 2021. Globally, 608,000 people died from malaria, the majority among children under the age of five. Pregnant women and young children are particularly vulnerable to the disease.

 

Despite these challenges, the world is making significant strides. In the last two decades, the Global Fund, which is the main funder of malaria eradication programs, has invested more than US$17.9 billion in malaria control programs, providing 65% of all international financing for such programs. Since January 2021, the Global Fund has increased malaria grants by an average of 23%.

 

Professor Crabb said: “Highly effective tools exist to prevent malaria ravaging families and communities. These include insecticide-treated mosquito nets, seasonal malaria chemoprevention for children under five, preventive treatment during pregnancy, indoor residual spraying, and robust testing and treatment protocols. We know these methods work and when they are equitably distributed, they are powerfully effective."

 

In 2022, the Global Fund distributed 220 million mosquito nets, covered 8.5 million structures with indoor residual spraying, provided seasonal malaria chemoprevention to 37.1 million children, and ensured that 14.6 million pregnant women received preventive therapy for malaria. Additionally, 321 million suspected cases of malaria were tested, and 166 million cases were treated.

 

Scientific innovation is driving further progress. For example, new mosquito nets using two insecticides are dramatically more effective than single-insecticide nets. Moreover, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance began rolling out the first ever and long-awaited malaria vaccine, whilst a second vaccine received recommendation for use in late 2023. These vaccines, when deployed alongside existing tools and as part of comprehensive national malaria control plans, are helping to accelerate action to get back on track to defeat the disease.

 

Investment in community health workers who bring lifesaving malaria prevention and care services to those who need them most is also highly effective. These investments benefit the health system more widely, as community health workers are trained to diagnose and treat diseases beyond malaria and to incorporate malaria prevention measures alongside other health care services.

 

"Today, a child dies from malaria every minute,” Professor Crabb said. "By harnessing the power of new and existing tools to fight malaria and ensuring equitable access to game-changing innovations, we can prevent infections and deaths and get closer to ending malaria by 2030. We urge the Australian Government to maintain its commitment to achieve this goal."

 

Contact: Nick Lucchinelli 0422 229 032

 

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