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HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium, Special Representative of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM), Visits Tokyo in lead-up to World Malaria Day

Press Release 13-015-E 2013.04.22

Global RBM Partnership Urges Increased Asian Investment in Fight Against Malaria

(22 April 2013; Tokyo, Japan) In her capacity as Special Representative to the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM), Her Royal Highness (HRH) Princess Astrid of Belgium has joined RBM in Tokyo as the global partnership calls for greater regional coordination against malaria and increased investment of Japan and other Asian countries in malaria-control efforts, both in the Asia-Pacific and Africa. As part of her global World Malaria Day activities (commemorated annually around the world on 25 April), HRH Princess Astrid is in Tokyo 22-23 April to meet with leading government officials and members of the private sector to advance conversations on malaria and the international development agenda. This visit comes in the lead-up to the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V), 1-3 June in Yokohama, where Japanese and African leaders will converge to tackle pressing African development issues.

“Malaria is no longer just a health issue; it is also an international affairs issue, requiring political attention and commitment at the highest of levels. In the face of financial challenges and the emergence of a resistance to the most effective anti-malarials on the market, political leadership, regional coordination and cooperation, as well as continued investment in malaria control efforts – both here in Asia and in Africa — has never been more important,” said HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium, Special Representative of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership.

Despite tremendous progress in recent years, malaria continues to infect approximately 219 million people around the world each year, killing an estimated 655,000. 90% of all cases occur in Africa, where the disease kills a child every minute and costs the continent an estimated minimum of US $12 billion each year in lost productivity alone. Yet recent data suggests that for every US $1 invested in malaria in Africa, US $40 GDP is generated in return. A priority of the United Nations Secretary-General, BAN Ki-moon, malaria has proven to be one of the most cost-effective development investments, with a low cost and high return on health and development indicators.

“With stronger coordination among partners and increased funding from committed partners like Japan, which has been a leading contributor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, we have made tremendous progress against malaria since 2000. But the recent global economic downturn has left us with funding gaps that threaten to reverse the gains we’ve made,” said Dr. Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. “In Africa alone, where the burden is highest, we now face an estimated funding gap of US $3.6 billion through 2015 that threatens the lives of millions if we do not come together to invest our resources more effectively.”

The Asia-Pacific region carries the second highest burden of malaria globally – behind Africa – with 20 malaria-endemic countries accounting for approximately 30 million cases and 42,000 deaths each year. Five countries – India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Myanmar and Papua New Guinea – bear the largest burden of the disease in the region, accounting for 89% of all malaria cases. Additionally, the emergence of resistance to the most effective antimalarials on the market – Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies – in areas of the Greater Mekong sub-Region threatens to reverse global progress to date.

“Japan is a committed and steadfast partner in advancing progress toward Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to help reduce poverty, overcome global health challenges and achieve key development indicators. As we celebrate World Malaria Day this week, I urge Japan and other Asian countries to increase their investments against this global killer to help us reach our goals and continue saving lives,” Dr. Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré continued. “For example, as a political leader and a key member of the G8, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and ‘ASEAN Plus Three,’ Japan is well positioned to ensure malaria maintains its position on the highest of regional agendas and is addressed with the level of coordination and political will necessary to overcome existing challenges.”

The fight against malaria has forged one of the most effective initiatives in global public health, under the leadership of the RBM Partnership, which has been highly successful in coordinating efforts and directing resources to where the need is greatest. Between 2000 and 2010, greater coordination resulted in a 25% decrease in global deaths, including a 33% decrease in Africa. With RBM’s coordination, at least ten endemic countries in Africa have reported declines in new malaria cases and steep falls in child mortality of up to 80 percent in the past decade.

“When we invest in malaria control, we invest in communities. Our efforts not only save lives, but they also allow us to awaken the potential stored in those children who will become our future leaders,” said HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium, Special Representative of RBM. “Investment in malaria will only foster greater economic development for us all.”

Following her visit to Tokyo, HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium will continue on to Cambodia (24-26 April), where she will spend World Malaria Day at the invitation of the Cambodian Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO). While in Cambodia, Princess Astrid will, in her capacity as Special Representative of the RBM, participate in a national World Malaria Day celebration, the launching of the WHO’s “Emergency Response to Artemisnin Resistance in the Greater Mekong sub-Region” framework and potential meetings with government officials to further advance conversations on malaria and the development agenda.

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Media Contact
-Herve Verhoosel
RBM External Relations
E-mail: hverhoosel@rbmny.org
Tel: +1 917 345 5238
**Mr. Verhoosel will be in Tokyo from Saturday morning, 20 April, through Wednesday morning, 24 April.

About the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM)
The Roll Back malaria Partnership was founded by UNICEF, WHO, UNDP and the World Bank in 1998 as a global framework to coordinate global action against malaria. Today, RBM is a global public-private partnership made up of more than 500 organizations across sectors that provides a neutral platform for consensus-building, developing solutions to challenges in the implementation of malaria control interventions and strategies, promotes high-level political commitment to keep malaria at the top of the global agenda, and monitors progress towards universal goals.

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The press conference is available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFAGavpKqSw .

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