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Asia Pacific leaders unite in renewed call to eliminate malaria amidst the pandemic

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Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of Health and Family Welfare announced India will host Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance 2022 Senior Officials Meeting for Malaria Elimination

On behalf of the Prime Minister of Bhutan, the 2021 Asia Pacific Leaders Dialogue for Malaria Elimination was opened recently by Dr Tandi Dorji, Minister of Foreign Affairs, with an appeal to galvanise action towards ending malaria, the world’s oldest pandemic. At the 13th December 2021 virtual gathering hosted by the Ministry of Health Bhutan, Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA) and Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN), senior government officials from across the region recommitted to accelerate the fight against the devastating disease in a time marked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With less than a decade left to reach the 2030 elimination goal as pledged by Asia Pacific Heads of Government at the 9th East Asia Summit, the Minister of Foreign Affairs urged countries to step up the fight against malaria through political leadership and regional collaboration.

Dr Dorji said, “Bhutan is extremely proud to host this year’s Asia Pacific Leaders Dialogue. Achieving the aspirations of the 22 Heads of Government committed to a malaria-free region takes an extraordinary effort. Upholding leadership commitment is critical as is sharing of technical expertise, best practices, and data. Today is a powerful demonstration that momentum is on our side. Tackling borderless issues like malaria elimination and COVID-19 requires an all-hands on deck approach to end this disease once and for all.”

Dasho Dechen Wangmo, Minister of Health Bhutan said, “Despite the ongoing global pandemic, we must not lose sight of accelerating progress towards malaria elimination – a preventable and treatable disease which has been eliminated by 40 countries worldwide. This Leaders Dialogue signals high-level political action needed to protect the region from malaria and future health crises.”

Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of Health and Family Welfare also added, “It is my honour to announce that India will host the 2022 Senior Officials Meeting for Malaria Elimination for the first time in its history. The meeting will coincide with the year of our nation’s 75th year of Independence.”

Dr Sarthak Das, CEO of APLMA said, “The Royal Government of Bhutan serves as a global model of how political leadership coupled with the power of collaboration across sectors yield remarkable progress towards malaria elimination. At the same time, as COVID-19 teaches us on a daily basis, we must collaborate not only across sectors but across borders to achieve an Asia Pacific free from malaria by 2030. And in that spirit, we are grateful to India’s commitment to host the Asia Pacific Leaders Alliance 2022 Senior Officials Meeting; next year’s convening will further galvanise our collective march towards elimination and will coincide with India’s 75th anniversary of Independence.”

To conclude the Leaders Dialogue, the Co-Chairs endorsed a Call to Action statement that highlighted three key actions to achieve malaria elimination: (1) Adopt a Whole of Government Approach by establishing/re-invigorating Inter-ministerial Task Forces to address cross-sectoral challenges to malaria elimination; (2) Develop joint cross-border elimination plans to ensure effective implementation of harmonised activities at ground level and (3) Ensure sustained funding for malaria service delivery and establish synergy with broader health systems funding to create programmatic efficiency.

Drew McCracken, APLMA Senior Director, Government Affairs and Policy said, “As the world progressively responds and learns the lessons from the test of resilience we have endured during the pandemic, driving key actions towards malaria elimination is a pre-requisite to strengthen overall health systems capable of defeating both existing health threats like malaria and emerging new ones like COVID-19. Now is the time to increase regional leadership and resources needed to protect the gains we have made against malaria over the last two decades, address remaining high-burden areas, and mitigate the long-term impact of COVID-19 on malaria, to eventually defeat it, as outlined in our new report.”

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