Asia Pacific Leaders Unite to Eradicate Malaria; PNG Summit Marks Turning Point

By: Roselyn Erehe June 24, 2024

(Sitted in center) PNG Department for Health, Secretary Dr Osborne Liko sitted next to his, during a media briefing 2 days before the 8th Asia Pacific Leader’s Summit on Malaria Elimination held in June.

Papua New Guinea (PNG), facing a significant malaria burden, recently hosted the 8th Asia Pacific Leaders' Summit on Malaria Elimination. Themed "Invest to Achieve Zero Malaria," the summit brought together key stakeholders to strategize and reinforce commitments towards a malaria-free future.

Marking a first for the region, the summit highlighted PNG's pivotal role in regional health initiatives.  With 90% of its population at high risk, PNG is battling a challenging but crucial fight.  Despite difficulties, the country has seen progress, with malaria deaths reduced from 616 in 2010 to 282 in 2022.

The summit emphasized collaborative efforts. Dr. Osborne Liko, PNG's Health Secretary, stressed the need for unified support from governments, communities, and international partners. The agenda focused on innovative funding, climate change mitigation strategies, and regional collaboration.

“Health is everyone’s business. Health is the human face of development. If our health is affected, this will affect the economy. A healthy population develops the nation,” Dr. Liko said.

Leaders from countries like China (malaria-free since 2022) and Sri Lanka (certified malaria-free in 2016) shared valuable insights alongside representatives from Timor-Leste, nearing malaria certification. This exchange of experiences fosters learning and collaboration.

Strengthening Regional Partnerships

The summit also saw the signing of a declaration by Health Ministers from PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Indonesia, and Timor-Leste, pledging to achieve malaria elimination by 2030.  East Timor's recent outbreak highlights the importance of cross-border collaboration.

A pivotal moment was a panel on innovative funding, moderated by Lady Roslyn Morauta, Chair of the Global Fund. Increased funding was deemed essential to scale up PNG's control efforts. Leaders across the Asia Pacific region reaffirmed their commitment to achieve a malaria-free future by 2030.

The summit yielded key outcomes: strengthened regional collaboration, exploration of innovative financing mechanisms, and leadership efforts tailored to PNG's context.  The summit's proceedings highlighted the importance of sustained financial investments and community engagement for PNG's eradication journey.

Health Minister Dr. Lino Tom reiterated the urgent need for increased funding to scale up malaria control efforts in PNG, stressing: “We need more money to upscale our efforts to use the available tools we have to eliminate malaria.”

By hosting the summit, PNG not only reaffirmed its commitment to public health but also strengthened its role as a regional advocate for malaria eradication. The nation aims to significantly reduce malaria incidence and mortality, paving the way for a malaria-free future.

The summit served as a significant moment in the fight against malaria. Diverse stakeholders strategized and committed to ambitious goals, paving the way for a healthier and malaria-free Asia Pacific region.

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