As the Malaria 2012: Saving Lives in the Asia-Pacific conference hosted by the Australian Government draws to a close, health and foreign affairs ministers, malaria experts and representatives from donor and malaria-endemic governments call for a stronger response in the Asia-Pacific, emphasising the importance of political leadership and regional coordination.
Launching a new report "Defeating malaria in Asia, the Pacific, Americas, Middle East and Europe," the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership and the report's author, the World Health Organization (WHO), briefed regional leaders on the impact of malaria on development and health systems in countries outside of Africa. Malaria is a potentially fatal disease which threatens over 2 billion people each year in the Asia-Pacific Region - approximately 67% of the world's total population of people at risk of malaria.
Malaria remains a public health problem in 51 countries outside of Africa, particularly affecting poorer populations.
- Malaria remains a public health problem outside of Africa. It leads to an estimated 34 million cases and 46 000 deaths among a population at risk of 2.5 billion people. The level of malaria risk can vary enormously. It can be as high as in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, with cases and deaths concentrated in children under five years of age, or 1000-fold lower where cases and deaths occur according to the degree of exposure. Both Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax parasites occur in great frequency. Diagnostic testing to determine the specific parasite and using the appropriate drug are critical. Malaria outside Africa is also characterized by greater mosquito vector diversity. Different vectors may have widely different breeding, feeding, and resting behaviours. Vector control interventions need to adapt to specific vector characteristics in a locality.
- Poorer populations are more likely to be affected. Poorer populations are more likely to live in rural areas in housing that offers little protection against mosquitoes. Furthermore, they are less likely to have access to mosquito nets or indoor residual spraying (IRS). They also tend to live further away from health facilities that can offer effective diagnostic testing and treatment and be less able to afford quality treatment.
- Malaria imposes costs on society which go beyond the costs to individuals and families affected by the disease. Productivity of businesses and government is reduced because of employee work time lost due to illness, and extra costs are incurred in preventing, diagnosing, and treating malaria. Malaria can discourage investment and trade—markets may be undeveloped owing to traders' unwillingness to travel to and invest in malaria-endemic areas. A country's tourist industry may remain undeveloped due to the travelers' reluctance to visiting malariaendemic areas.