Heads of state and foreign ministers from the Asia-Pacific, encouraged by advances in research and new resources, have reaffirmed their commitment to eliminating malaria by 2050, with Cambodia working to eradicate the mosquito-borne disease by 2025.
The Lancet Commission on Malaria Eradication’s seminal report, released on Tuesday at the National University of Singapore, said that with the right tools and strategies, and sufficient funding, eradication of the disease was possible within a generation.
The report said Cambodia was steadfast in promoting safe and good-quality medicine through the Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee, but added that more funding was needed globally.
It estimated that global eradication of malaria would cost between $6 billion and $8 billion per year, while the world currently spends $4.3 billion.
The commission said while other parts of the planet had experienced a resurgence of malaria, Asia-Pacific countries had seen progress in eliminating it.
Nonetheless, it said that the momentum must be maintained to overcome multi-drug resistant malaria strains which first emerged in Cambodia and Thailand in 2008 before being detected in Lao, Myanmar and Vietnam.
“For too long, malaria eradication has been a distant dream, but now we have evidence that malaria can and should be eradicated by 2050,” said the co-chair of the Lancet Commission on Malaria Eradication and director of the Global Health Group at the University of California, San Francisco, Sir Richard Feachem.
Among the biggest challenges in the fight against malaria were poor quality and counterfeit medicine said a National Institutes of Health study published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.
The drugs, the study said, could lead to increased drug resistance and inadequate treatment for vulnerable populations.
Mobile workers and illegal forest labourers are most at risk of contracting the disease since they often avoid the traditional public healthcare system which provides life-saving anti-malarial medication, the commission said.
The commission said by receiving the wrong treatment, people not only endanger themselves but the region as a whole.
“If drug resistance were to spread, there is a risk that malaria will resurge and jeopardise the successes achieved and investments made,” said Professor Arjen Dondorp, deputy director and head of Malaria Research at the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Thailand.
Prime Minister Hun Sen and leaders from Lao, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand gathered in Phnom Penh last November at the Regional Conference on Combating Falsified and Substandard Medicines to address the trans-boundary threat.
Hun Sen said at the conference: “The widespread use of fake and substandard medicines might be caused by the high price of the original medicines, an ineffective production mechanism, and the way they are sold in markets.”
Communicable Disease Control department director Ly Sovann said on Wednesday that while there have been no malaria-related deaths reported this year, a few cases of drug-resistant malaria were still found along the border.
He said it was important to cure those cases so that they don’t spread to other areas.
“The Ministry of Health has strategies to eliminate malaria by 2025. We try to deliver mosquito nets to people, give medicine free of charge and educate people at the community level.
“We also have cooperation from different partners. It is the political will of the government to eradicate malaria,” he said.