Ending malaria will require making high-quality medication available universally in the most remote and isolated villages around the malaria-infected world. It will also require eliminating fake and substandard meds, Dr. Benjamin Rolfe, the Chief Executive Officer of Asia Pacific Leaders’ Malaria Alliance, says.
Though malaria has been eliminated from virtually all of the developed world, it remains a scourge in much of the developing world, killing 445,000 in 2016 and infecting millions every year.
Interview with Dr. Benjamin Rolfe, the Chief Executive Officer of Asia Pacific Leaders’ Malaria Alliance.
The following is the pre-interview with Dr. Benjamin Rolfe. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.
What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?
The campaign against malaria is a global health success story. The Asia Pacific region achieved the World Health Assembly Goal reducing the number of cases and deaths between 2000 and 2015 by 75%. Despite remarkable progress, over two billion living in the region are still at risk to the disease.
The nature of malaria means even the most impressive gains are fragile. Previous success against the disease has been reversed by explosive malaria resurgence threatening decades of progress. One important problem is the rising drug-resistant malaria emerging in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Without urgent action, the most important first-line treatment for malaria could become ineffective within years that would trigger a devastating rise in malaria prevalence and mortality.
A key contributor to the problem is the circulation of fake and substandard antimalarial drugs, although this is not the sole reason for this emergence. Suboptimal doses of artemisinin – a drug used to treat malaria — in a given substandard medicine allow the parasite to develop resistance to the drug. Globally, poor-quality antimalarial drugs caused an estimated 200,000 preventable deaths each year.
Experts agree the best strategy to tackle malaria – and rising drug resistance – is to end it for good, and by strengthening health systems so they are better able to manage the disease – along with other health threats.
APLMA is supporting countries to implement priority actions and accelerate malaria elimination by 2030. APLMA drives the implementation of the APLMA Leaders Malaria Elimination Roadmap by benchmarking progress against priorities, coordinating regional action, brokering policy, providing technical and financing solutions to regional and national challenges and encouraging effective country leadership to expedite elimination of malaria throughout the region.
APLMA is bringing together key players to tackle relevant malaria-related problems. Recently, we convened important stakeholders from Governments, Academia and Pharmaceutical industry that led to the launch of “Regional Regulatory Partnership” seeking to address the growing problem of proliferation of fake and substandard antimalarial drugs and strengthen health regulatory systems in the region.
More about Asia Pacific Leaders’ Malaria Alliance:
Asia Pacific Leaders’ Malaria Alliance (APLMA) is an affiliation of Asian and Pacific heads of government formed to accelerate progress against malaria and to eliminate it in the region by 2030. The APLMA secretariat was established to ensure the region will be able to deliver the services and financing required to see malaria elimination through. APLMA Secretariat is based in Singapore.
For-profit/Nonprofit: The Secretariat is a registered charity in Singapore (Nonprofit).
Revenue model: APLMA Secretariat receives funding from the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign and Trade (DFAT) and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Scale: Starting from 18 Leaders in 2015, the Alliance now has 23 Heads of Government committed to the 2030 malaria elimination goal and endorsed the APLMA Roadmap as a framework to achieve it. The APLMA secretariat employs 15 staff from diverse expertise and background.
Dr Benjamin Rolfe’s bio:
Dr. Benjamin Rolfe is the Chief Executive Officer of the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance. Formerly Pacific Lead Health Advisor at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ben has more than twenty years’ experience in supporting health initiatives across 30 countries. His expertise focuses on health policy, systems strengthening and financing. Ben is currently based in Singapore, having previously lived and worked for long periods in Cambodia, Nepal, India, Tanzania, Australia, Nigeria and Eritrea. Dr. Rolfe holds a PhD from the University of Wales and is a Fellow of the UK Faculty of Public Health Medicine.