Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP
“Diseases like malaria know no borders and that’s why health security is a global challenge. But we do know that when health systems come together globally we can transform the outcome.” – The Hon Julie Bishop MP.
That was one of the key messages delivered by Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP in her keynote address to the 1st Malaria World Congress in Melbourne.
In front on a packed audience at the Melbourne Convention Centre, including Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Health Minister, the Hon Dr Sir Puka Temu, Minister Bishop also announced more than AUD$16 million in funding for five research projects to be supported by the Government’s Stronger Systems for Health Security program.
Burnet’s Head of the Vector Borne Diseases and Tropical Public Health Group, Dr Leanne Robinson will lead one of the projects announced: Burnet Institute for real-time surveillance of mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria, in Papua New Guinea and provide early warning of drug and insecticide resistance.
Other projects announced included:
- University of Newcastle for up skilling Papua New Guinea’s frontline health security workforce and policymakers to help them identify and address some of the country’s most serious health security threats
- Menzies School of Health Research for improved disease surveillance in Timor-Leste and for strengthened responses to multidrug-resistant malaria and tuberculosis in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea
- University of Sydney for combating the spread of antimicrobial resistance in Vietnam and for strengthening water-borne disease prevention and outbreak response in Fiji
- University of New South Wales research into the role of private suppliers of antibiotics in contributing to the growth of antimicrobial resistance in Indonesia.
Image: (L-R) Professor Alan Cowman, PNG’s Health Minister the Hon Dr Sir Puka Temu, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, Professor Brendan Crabb AC and Associate Professor Helen Evans AO.
Earlier in her speech, Minister Bishop stated that although most of the global efforts to eliminate malaria are centred in sub-Saharan Africa, the Indo-Pacific region also demands attention. She highlighted that India accounts for 60 per cent of all cases outside sub-Saharan Africa and progress is being made. Bangladesh, Indonesia and Timor-Leste are all showing significant progress in decreasing malaria mortality. Sri Lanka and the province of Vanuatu have been declared malaria-free.
“In 2016, according to the latest WHO report, there were 216 million cases of malaria worldwide and 450,000 deaths. Forty-four countries reported less than 10,000 cases. Two more countries were declared malaria-free and 21 countries were identified about having the potential to be malaria-free by 2020,” Minister Bishop said.
“In PNG, a country of eight million people, WHO reports in 2016 there were 1.9 million cases with 6,000 deaths. And the Greater Mekong has become the epicentre of drug resistant threats and has the potential to set back progress being made.
“In fact the WHO has reported that progress in eliminating malaria stalled last year and some countries are reporting an increase in rates.
“So there is no time for complacency – this Congress is timely because we need to reassess our efforts, our ideas, our expertise and our experience to see real progress being made once more.
“In terms of prevention, much has been achieved. In the 2013-2016 period there were half a billion insecticide-treated bed nets that were distributed.
“Other options of antimalarial treatment are possible, with the artemisinin-based combination therapy being taken up by many countries.
“We are yet to have a highly effective vaccine. But I think the scientific and medical research and technical advances that we are seeing means such a vaccine is in our grasp.
“On the diagnosis front I think we are doing far better. The WHO reports that the testing rates have improved dramatically in sub-Saharan Africa for example.”
Minister Bishop, a strong advocate for eliminating malaria and a member of the End Malaria Council, highlighted the Australian Government’s stance to focus on health security in our region.
“If we are to have healthy communities, productive societies and economic growth to underpin security and prosperity (we must focus on health security),” she said.
“The AUD$300 million Indo-Pacific Health Security Initiative was announced and we have set up the Centre for Health Security, bringing together the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, our Federal Health Department, Defence Department, our scientific, political and agricultural research agencies, so that we can concentrate on supporting public health systems in our region.
“Australia is deeply committed to the goal of malaria elimination but we need to work in partnership if we are to eliminate malaria in our lifetime.”