Malaria has a devastating affect on many communities in Papua New Guinea.
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, the Hon Julie Bishop MP has joined a key global body, the End Malaria Council, co-chaired by global philanthropist, Bill Gates.
It’s a move welcomed by Burnet Institute Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb AC, a leading international malaria researcher and a co-Chair of the Ist Malaria World Congress to be held in Melbourne from 1-5 July 2018.
“Undoubtedly Australia has a major role to play if we are to achieve the ambitious goal of eliminating malaria from our region. This devastating disease is one of the world’s leading health problems causing death and severe illness to millions each year at a scale that entrenches poverty and disadvantage,” Professor Crabb said.
“Despite impressive advances over the last decade, malaria remains a huge global and regional threat.”
Malaria, a disease transmitted to humans by parasite-infected mosquitoes, was eradicated in Australia in 1981 but still exists through much of Asia and the Pacific.
“Minister Bishop has been a key supporter of increased regional efforts to address rising drug resistance to frontline malaria drug, artemisinin, and investing in health security, including malaria control and support,” Professor Crabb said.
In a recent interview with The Australian, Minister Bishop said: “Malaria is one of the world’s most pressing health challenges and I am honoured to join this important group of global leaders (End Malaria Council) in the fight against this serious disease.”
The nine-member End Malaria Council, headed by Bill Gates, features some of the very top international leaders committed to ending one of the world’s largest scourges – malaria – such as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Health in Agenda 2030 and for Malaria, Mr Ray Chambers, the President of Liberia and a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Ms Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and the former President of the United Republic of Tanzania Mr Jakaya Kikwete. Minister Bishop is the first representative from Indo-Pacific region on the council.
“The Australian government will continue to invest strongly in health security, including malaria control and elimination, with a focus on increasing impact through partnerships,” Minister Bishop said.
Currently there is no mechanism globally for ALL stakeholders - those in affected communities, in government, in policy development, in implementation, in program finance, and in research - to gather and share information, to reach a consensus, and to build a solid framework for collaborative action against malaria.
Australia’s hosting of the inaugural Malaria World Congress aims to address this gap.
Professor Crabb, Professor Alan Cowman from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, and Associate Professor Helen Evans (Hon) AO from the Nossal Institute for Global Health and Burnet Institute, are co-Chairs of the Malaria World Congress 2018.
Bill Gates, the head of the world’s largest private charitable foundation, told The Australian, Australia should become the regional champion of a historic drive to eradicate malaria from Asia within 10 years.
“To be a regional champion of getting rid of malaria, it’s kind of a natural role for Australia. There’s the group of regional (Asian) leaders (and) it hasn’t yet been as engaged as we’ve had in Africa but we think there’s an opportunity to re-energise that group if Australia decides to take a lead on it,” he said.
He said there was an urgent need to step up the fight against malaria in Asia, which accounts for about seven per cent of the world’s cases, because parasite-carrying mosquitoes were developing a resistance to a key drug, artemisinin. If this resistance were to spread to Africa, with 90 per cent of the world’s cases, it would be a disaster.
“The biggest scare is that we have artemisinin resistance in Southeast Asia … that has not reached Africa yet,” Mr Gates said.
“So it’s a kind of race. The dream would be to clear Southeast Asia. And that’s partly where the partnership with Australia comes in.”
Find out more about Burnet’s malaria projects or the Malaria World Congress.