The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has announced an expansion of an initiative aimed at eliminating the most deadly strain of malaria in Southeast Asia's Greater Mekong region.
Launched in 2013 in response to the emergence of drug-resistant malaria in Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam, the Regional Artemisinin-Resistance Initiative has supported the purchase and distribution of insecticide-treated nets, rapid diagnostic tests that don't require a laboratory or medical expertise, and quality-assured drugs, which together have combined to produce a sharp reduction in malaria deaths in the region.
Announced on World Malaria Day, the second phase of the initiative, which is expected to become operational in 2018, will total more than $242 million over three years and is funded by the largest regional grant ever made by the Global Fund and the first with the goal of eliminating a disease in a specific geography. The grant will enable the five countries to invest in case management through health volunteers and surveillance systems, including $34 million for a regional component focused on ensuring malaria service coverage for populations in remote border areas, which face the highest risk of contracting the disease and are least likely to have access to formal health centers.
"We have seen the results of a concerted effort and coordinated approach to malaria in the region," said Izaskun Gaviria, the Global Fund's senior fund portfolio manager for RAI. "We know what's possible, and we know what's at stake. That is why the countries have come together with the goal of elimination. It's the only answer to drug resistance and it can't be done in isolation."