An ambitious goal - to eliminate malaria from the Asia-Pacific region by 2030- faces formidable hurdles but is achievable if enough political will and funding are available to fight the mosquito-borne disease, health experts say.
Malaria experts have been meeting in the Thai capital Bangkok this week to thrash out a plan to meet the target agreed late last year by the leaders of 18 countries in the region,where some two billion people are at risk of infection.
There is concern the plan could unravel because resistance to artemisinin, a powerful component in malaria drugs, looms inthe Greater Mekong region and could spread westward, even reaching Africa at a cost of millions of lives.
"Shifting towards an elimination goal is the best strategy, in particular if you have drug resistance," Maxine Whittaker, co-coordinator of the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN), a group of 16 countries formed to speed up the fight against the disease, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"Even if malaria doesn't seem to be a major problem in your country, you've got to finish off the job, and even if you have eliminated it from your own country, it can easily spread across borders," said Whittaker.
APMEN works in partnership with the Asia Pacific LeadersMalaria Alliance (APLMA), a group of heads of government chaired by the prime ministers of Australia and Vietnam, to increase regional cooperation.
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An article published by Thompson Reuters Foundation, 13 February 2015, written by Astrid Zweynert