HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium to highlight fight against malaria in Indonesia in lead-up to World Malaria Day 2012

Special Representative to the Roll Back Malaria Partnership visits malaria programs in Indonesia and urges greater regional commitment against malaria

12 April 2012, Jakarta: As part of her World Malaria Day activities, Her Royal Highness (HRH) Princess Astrid of Belgium, Special Representative to the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM), is visiting Singapore and Indonesia this April 10-15 to encourage greater commitment to global malaria control efforts. The Princess, who has served as Special Representative for RBM since 2007, has toured malaria research centers and met with government officials and business leaders in Singapore before arriving at the Republic of Indonesia to participate in a field visit and highlight the successes the government and partners have made in the fight against malaria. This trip to Asia comes at a time when RBM partners around the world plan their annual commemoration of World Malaria Day on April 25.

“Malaria is important to me because of its burden on the most vulnerable – pregnant women and children,” said HRH Princess Astrid. “In my work with the RBM Partnership, I've seen first-hand the complete devastation malaria imposes on communities. I've also seen the incredible hope provided by simple, cost-effective tools that prevent and treat infection and advance other development goals that will lift comminutes out of poverty.”

While in Indonesia (April 12-15), HRH Princess Astrid will help launch of a national RBM Partnership, together with Vice President Boediono and Vice-minister of health, Dr Ali Ghufron. She will also meet with high-level officials to encourage continued national commitment and regional leadership against malaria and will visit local malaria control programs in Bandar Lampung in the company of representatives of Indonesia's Ministry of Health, WHO, UNICEF and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Adequate financing, effective partnership and strong political will from district, provincial and national leaders have allowed the government of Indonesia and partners to make promising progress against malaria in recent years. Since 2008 they have distributed more than 4 million insecticide-treated nets and increased access to the most effective anti-malarial drugs, resulting in a steady decline of malaria cases and death. Yet, Indonesia remains one of the highest malaria-burdened countries outside of Africa. While some islands work to maintain control and others move toward elimination, sustained investment, strong technical and political leadership will be crucial to ensure Indonesia's existing malaria control strategy is translated into action.

“While we've seen progress against malaria in recent years, nearly 700,000 people around the world still die each year from this preventable and treatable disease,” said Hervé Verhoosel, Head of External Relations for RBM. “With Asia accounting for the second highest malaria burden outside of Africa, the case of Indonesia highlights the importance of political leadership, available resources and effective partnership. As Indonesia launches their national RBM Partnership, the country is poised to maintain progress against their national malaria control strategy and is well positioned to lead regional efforts against malaria.”

The fight against malaria has forged one of the most effective initiatives in global public health, under the leadership of the RBM Partnership, which has been highly successful in coordinating efforts and directing resources to where the need is greatest. With RBM's coordination, 43 malaria endemic countries worldwide have reported declines in malaria cases by 50% or more since 2000, and many have seen decreases in all-cause child mortality. Yet much work remains unfinished. Despite advancements, malaria continues to infect 216 million people around the world each year.

Before arriving in Indonesia, Princess Astrid has visited Singapore (April 10-12), where she toured malaria research facilities at the National University of Singapore and the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases. With the growing threat of emerging artemisinin resistance in the Asia-Pacific region, research to better understand the mechanisms of resistance and the development of next generation of antimalarial tools is paramount. Many front-line antimalarials have been lost to resistance in the past. Historically, resistance to other antimalarial drugs emerged in South-east Asia and spread to other continents. With no alternative to artemisinins, a potential wide-spread resistance could unravel the hard-won gains achieved in recent years.

Media Contact:

The RBM Secretariat

Mr Trey Watkins
RBM, External Relations
Mobile: +1 347 931 0667
*NOTE: Mr. Watkins will be in Indonesia and available for inquiries in advance of the delegation's visit, beginning on 2 April. Mr. Watkins can be reached locally at the Ritz-Carlton, Mega Kuningan: (62-21) 2551 8888.

Mr Hervé Verhoosel
Representative in New York and Head of External Relations
Mobile: + 1 917345 5238

The Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM is the global framework for coordinated action against malaria. Founded in 1998 by UNICEF, WHO, UNDP and the World Bank and strengthened by the expertise, resources and commitment of more than 500 partner organizations, RBM is a public-private partnership that facilitates the incubation of new ideas, lends support to innovative approaches, promotes high-level political commitment and keeps malaria high on the global agenda by enabling, harmonizing and amplifying partner-driven advocacy initiatives. RBM secures policy guidance and financial and technical support for control efforts in countries and monitors progress towards universal goals.