Increased funding is needed to eliminate malaria across 22 Asia-Pacific countries and save an estimated 400,000 lives, according to research published in a new collection of studies on Wellcome Open Research.
Dr Sheetal Silal, from the Department of Statistical Sciences at UCT, a lead author on a recently published paper says that, “While the Asia-Pacific region has made significant progress in combatting malaria, external malaria financing has recently plateaued. With competing health risks, countries near elimination face the risk of withdrawal of funding as malaria is perceived as less of a threat. Mathematical modelling was used to compute the economic benefits and costs of elimination, and the resultant investment case can be used to advocate for sustained financing to realise the goal of malaria elimination in Asia-Pacific by 2030."
Although Asia-Pacific countries have made significant progress towards their goal of eliminating malaria by 2030, collection researchers warn that stagnating donor funding puts at risk national malaria control efforts and access to lifesaving drugs and other tools, and could, under one potential scenario, result in as many as 845 million more malaria cases and 3.5 million deaths.
“This evidence-based investment case for the region comes from preliminary estimates to quantify the economic benefits of eliminating malaria, which could save hundreds of thousands of lives, avoid millions of malaria cases, and generate billions in healthcare savings, as well as savings from lost wages and productivity due to illness.” said collection advisor and study author Prof Richard Maude from the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) in Bangkok.
“While the cost of eliminating malaria in the Asia Pacific is not insignificant, it will result in a large return on investment. For every additional dollar spent, there was predicted to be an overall economic benefit of USD $6 for the affected countries,” said lead study author Rima Shretta.
Study author Prof Lisa White of MORU adds, “We made these preliminary estimates using a first of its kind multispecies mathematical and economic modelling approach supported by estimated disease burden and from this we could develop an evidence-based investment case for the region.”
Eliminating malaria in Asia-Pacific by 2030 is realistic, with significant human benefits – but only if adequately funded, say the study authors, who note that it is important to put pressure on donors and decision-makers to continue funding current efforts – including fully funding the Global Fund at the upcoming replenishment conference this October.
“In the current climate of decreasing global malaria funding, countries with a lower malaria burden are becoming a lesser priority for donors, but sustained financing needs to be secured to realise this goal of P. falciparum and P. vivax elimination in the Asia-Pacific by 2030,” said study author Dr Sheetal Silal from the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
“We hope to raise awareness of the need for increased investment to eliminate malaria and also the potential overall economic benefits of this investment,” said Prof Maude.
The research is the result of partnership between the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU), with funding support by the Asian Development Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Government.
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