GENEVA – The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will continue to support five Southeast Asian countries to expand efforts against malaria, and aim to eliminate the most deadly strain of malaria.
The Global Fund’s Regional Artemisinin-resistance Initiative (RAI) was launched in 2013 in response to the emergence of drug-resistant malaria in the Greater Mekong region, first noted in Cambodia and Thailand and later Myanmar, Laos and Viet Nam. RAI has supported countries to purchase and distribute commodities such as insecticide-treated nets, rapid diagnostic tests that don’t require a laboratory or medical expertise, and quality-assured drugs, which together have yielded a sharp drop in malaria deaths.
The Global Fund today announced an expansion of RAI with a second phase, to become operational in 2018. Projected to total more than US$242 million over three years, it’s the Global Fund’s largest regional grant, and the first with the defined goal of disease elimination from a specific geography.
The announcement comes on World Malaria Day, the annual global effort to highlight the disease that kills one child every two minutes. In 2015, there were 212 million new cases of malaria and 429,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
The grant will support countries to invest in case management through health volunteers and surveillance systems, which often require intensive training, information technology and human resources.
“We have seen the results of a concerted effort and coordinated approach to malaria in the region,” says Izaskun Gaviria, the Global Fund’s Senior Fund Portfolio Manager for RAI. “We know what’s possible, and we know what’s at stake. That is why the countries have come together with the goal of elimination. It’s the only answer to drug resistance and it can’t be done in isolation.”
The majority of the RAI grant will be allocated to the five countries, but US$34 million will be dedicated to a regional component that focuses on ensuring malaria service coverage for remote populations in border areas. These are the people who face the highest risk and are least likely to have access to formal health centers.
“With the RAI investment bolstering national funding and the commitment of partners from all sectors, elimination is possible,” says Gaviria. “The threat of drug resistance going global means we absolutely must finish the job. Failing to do so would squander the opportunity in the Mekong and be a huge setback for health security globally.”
RAI’s Regional Steering Committee, composed of funders, multilateral agencies, technical partners, scientific researchers, communities, the private sector and governments from the five countries, has been instrumental to ensuring coordination, cooperation and accountability in the implementation of the various programs supported by the grant.
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