New Delhi, Apr 25: WHO today asked the South Asian region countries, including India, to scale up anti-malaria efforts, saying robust financial investment and political will are “crucial” to tackle the disease. The WHO South-East Asia, on World Malaria Day, said the region has made progress in its efforts to combat malaria as between 2000 and 2014, achieving an 85 per cent decline in malaria mortality rates. “Between 2000 and 2014, the SEA region achieved an 85 per cent decline in malaria mortality rates with all member countries committed to malaria elimination by 2030 at the latest. In a region where approximately 1.4 billion people are at risk, there is no space for complacency.

“To end malaria for good, member countries must reinforce and scale up their efforts now. Sustained and robust financial investment and political will is crucial. This is necessary to make immediate gains and also to eliminate any danger of resurgence,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia. She said in the last century there were dozens of examples of malaria resurgence around the world, many of them linked to a decline in funding and political will, and history must not be repeated. Noting that the national malaria programmes must be empowered to work across sectors, she said these programmes must possess a broad range of capabilities and must be backed by effective national policies. ALSO READ: Six African nations could be malaria-free by 2020: WHO

“Community participation and buy-in is also critical. Many of the people at risk of malaria live in hilly and inaccessible areas. In some cases, they are also mobile. Action must be accelerated in these high-burden areas and among vulnerable groups, with a gradual shift in the response from the national to the local level. “The continued development of new solutions and strategies, including next-generation drugs, diagnostics and vaccines, will similarly play a key role in beating the threat from drug and insecticide resistance,” she said.

She noted that the emergence in the Greater Mekong Subregion of serious malaria multidrug resistance, including to artemisinin-based combination therapies, has the potential to jeopardise all ongoing efforts in the SEA region and beyond. “Ending malaria for good is an ambitious target. But it is also achievable. WHO remains committed to working with member countries and partner organisations such as the Global Fund and the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance to combat the debilitating disease and to lift its burden from the South-East Asia Region.