Keynote speech by ADB Vice-President Stephen Groff at the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance Senior Officials Meeting held 9-10 July 2015 in Manila Philippines.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Asian Development Bank, I am delighted to welcome you to the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance Senior Officials Meeting. We are here today to talk about our progress in achieving the goal of an Asia Pacific free of malaria by 2030 - an agreement made by Heads of Government from East Asia Summit and malaria- endemic Pacific countries in 2014. Before I begin, I’d like to express thanks to our co-chairs, Australia and Viet Nam, as well as to Dr. Shin for his remarks and to Dr. Mboi for her able moderation of this morning’s opening session.
The Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance or “APLMA” was established to promote regional political leadership and collaboration in the fight against malaria, and to increase cooperation among Asian Pacific countries on regional health security. Indeed, an upfront investment in malaria elimination will result in long-term savings as expensive control programs can be substantially scaled back. Malaria elimination is one of the ‘best- buys’ in public health with recent models estimating that elimination would generate up to US$298 billion in total global savings and social benefits. There are also broader economic benefits - annual growth of per capita GDP in malarious countries is 0.25–1.3% points lower than growth in countries without the disease. We see income no longer lost through illness and absenteeism, educational outcomes improved, and agriculture and tourism boosted. We have seen improved literacy as shown in Sri Lanka where ending malaria in the most heavily infected region corresponded to a 17 per cent increase in literacy.
We should seize this unique and, frankly, time-limited opportunity to eliminate malaria; to protect a decade of results and of global investments of around US$19billion; and benefit the health of 2.2 billion people in Asia Pacific at risk from the disease.
Indeed, investments in malaria elimination can be a foundation for broader disease protection while helping ensure health security in Asia and the Pacific. Investments in more robust malaria prevention, surveillance and treatment improve health systems and empower these to tackle other communicable and non-communicable diseases. Strong health systems boost resilience against threats such as Ebola, MERS, SARS, and antimicrobial drug resistance. Strengthened health systems support inclusive growth and sustainable economic development, and reinforce the foundations for universal health coverage.
Indeed, countries across Asia and the Pacific are committing to universal health coverage (or “UHC”) in order to ensure that all of their citizens can access needed health services without becoming poor (or even poorer). While the impacts vary by country, the financial hardship for families affected by illness can be large. In Cambodia, for example, out-of-pocket expenditures for healthcare continue to be significant – putting families who subsist just above the poverty line at risk of falling into extreme poverty with a single illness.
The need to strengthen health systems and support countries achieve UHC are precisely why ADB will increase our investment in health across the region to 3 to 5 percent of our lending by 2020. This represents a commitment of up to 1 billion dollars a year which would significantly increase our health portfolio which was just 30 million dollars in 2014.
ADB’s new Operational Plan for Health or OPH describes various approaches to expanding health engagement with our developing member countries or DMCs. Based on their needs and leveraging key ADB strengths, the OPH’s overall objective is to support countries achieve universal health coverage and highlights priority areas of focus for support in the region. This includes supporting good governance and regional public goods by strengthening institutions, planning, financial management, and health information and regulatory systems. ADB is helping countries expand access to health care though equitable and efficient health financing systems that empower people and patients.
While investing in integrated and cost-effective programs that expand the supply of public and private health services; as well as providing financing that will pay for outputs, outcomes and results; ADB will strengthen partnerships with the World Health Organization, and deepen alliances with multilateral and bilateral partners. We will work with funds and foundations to identify co- financing and innovative interventions; and with centers of excellence and technical agencies to provide responsive technical advice.
ADB is investing in health. This is clearly demonstrated by our involvement in malaria elimination through APLMA, and the Regional Malaria and Other Communicable Disease Threats Trust Fund. We have nurtured the APLMA secretariat and have brought ADB’s convening power, interdisciplinary approaches to regional health governance, and the ability to combine technical knowledge with development finance to malaria elimination, health security and UHC.
And thus we convene here today to discuss and validate the draft APLMA Leaders Malaria Elimination Roadmap, which is being developed by the APLMA Secretariat in collaboration with countries and key partners - and we are grateful that so many of you are here today. Your high-level strategic guidance will ensure the realization of the goal of an Asia Pacific free of malaria by 2030 as agreed to by Heads of Government two years ago.
On behalf of the ADB, the host of the APLMA Secretariat, I wish you all a successful and productive meeting.