World Health Day - Stephen P. Groff

Speech | 7 April 2014

Speech by ADB Vice President Stephen P. Groff on 7 April 2014, delivered at WHO Western Pacific Regional Office, Manila, Philippines (as drafted).

Introduction

Regional Director Shin, dignitaries, colleagues and friends, thank you for inviting me here today to celebrate World Health Day at the Western Pacific Regional Office of the World Health Organization.

World Health Day marks the founding of the WHO - an important milestone in global cooperation for the benefit of all. Since 1948, WHO has served as the leading global health technical agency and as lead global advocate for health improvements and equitable access to health services. As a membership organization, WHO is based on the premise of mutual responsibility, accountability and support.

Our work at ADB is enriched by the global leadership of WHO. Our work in the health sector benefits from an environment that has clear standards and protocols due to the existence of WHO. We also benefit by being based in Manila together with WHO’s Western Pacific Regional Office, or WPRO. We appreciate the generosity of WPRO staff over the years in providing health sector advice and support for ADB staff and programs.

This year’s theme of vector-borne diseases resonates strongly for us. We realize the economic and social harm that comes to the region from these diseases - and that for many of these diseases, the poor are most in harm’s way.

Collaboration on vector-borne diseases

ADB has worked with WHO over many years to address dengue, malaria, schistosomiasas and other vector-borne diseases. We recently collaborated with WHO on a joint study of the effectiveness and feasibility of using guppy fish to reduce mosquito larva in water storage pots in Cambodia and Laos. We also supported the WHO-led Healthy Borders conference in Thailand in August 2013.

And we have jointly commissioned and recently published a regional assessment of neglected tropical diseases. This assessment, called Addressing Diseases of Poverty: An Initiative to Reduce the Unacceptable Burden of Neglected Tropical Diseases in the Asia Pacific Region, is being launched here today.

This year, we are expanding our engagement with the region and with WPRO on malaria and other communicable disease threats. ADB is hosting the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance, or APLMA (“apple - mah”), through 2015. The APLMA Chairs are the Prime Ministers of Australia and Viet Nam. The initiative focuses the attention of national leaders across the region on commitments to ensure continued progress in controlling malaria and in containing drug resistant malaria. The Government of Australia has generously provided funding for the APLMA Secretariat.

The APLMA has two taskforces that are delving into the issues of i) improved access to malaria medicines and other technologies and ii) sustained financing for malaria. The access to malaria medicines task force met for the first time from 12 - 13 March in Sydney, Australia, with strong support from WHO in Geneva and from Dr. Shin and the Western Pacific Regional Office. The next meeting will be held from 9 - 10 June, jointly with WPRO.

The first Malaria Financing taskforce meeting will be held in Hong Kong on 12 May to begin reviewing options for improving the availability of resources for controlling and eventually eliminating malaria.

To support the APLMA countries in achieving regional malaria goals, ADB has also developed the Regional Malaria and Other Communicable Disease Threats Trust Fund. The Trust Fund was approved in late 2013 and has received initial financing from the Governments of Australia and the United Kingdom. We are working together with WPRO to ensure good coordination and collaboration with WHO and other partners.

We greatly appreciate the technical leadership and support that WPRO contributes to the APLMA, the taskforces and the Trust Fund. We look forward to formalizing our partnership on malaria and other communicable disease threats through a memorandum of understanding next month.

Future

Defeating vector-borne diseases is important to development, to poverty and to people’s health in Asia and the Pacific. We recognize that increased environmental stress, regional connectivity and climate change make defeating these diseases all the more challenging.

We are pleased to be able to bring ADB’s comparative advantages to the task. These include our ability to engage all sectors; our relationships with ministries of finance; and our experience in fostering regional cooperation around public goods, including communicable diseases control.

Our work on communicable diseases is part of our overall commitment to health. We realize the importance of health and of affordable access to health services for economies and households across Asia and the Pacific. For that reason, we will be expanding operations in the health sector to 3%-5% of our annual lending, from 2% during 2008-2012. We will also build on and expand partnerships with technical agencies and experts in other organizations.

We are particularly pleased with our very productive collaboration with WPRO - on vector-borne diseases and a host of other health issues that are important for our developing member countries. We look forward to expanding our partnership with WPRO - to the benefit of our institutions and our member countries.

Closing

Once again, thank you for inviting me here today. Congratulations on your celebration - and on marking another year of support to the countries of the region.