Keynote address at the Malaria World Congress

  • Speech, check against delivery
02 July 2018

JULIE BISHOP: I am delighted to welcome all delegates hereto Melbourne, the most liveable city on the planet, to this inaugural MalariaWorld Congress. Among the many esteemed delegates, please allow me toacknowledge Sir Puka Temu, the Minister for Health from Papua New Guinea, indeed,a medical practitioner who has spent some time working in hospitals inMelbourne and Sydney, welcome Sir Puka. Ken Staley, the US Global MalariaEradication Coordinator, appointed by the US President - we are delighted tohave our friends from the United States here as well.

We areparticularly proud to host this Congress, for Australia is deeply committed toachieving the goal of the elimination of malaria, once and for all. The peoplein this room gathered here today can help us achieve that goal. In fact, thepeople in this room are key to ensuring we can eliminate malaria.

Where do westand? According to the latest WHO report in 2017 in 2016 there were 216million cases of malaria worldwide, 450,000 deaths. 44 countries reported lessthan 10,000 cases, two more countries were declared malaria-free and 21countries were identified as having the potential to be malaria-free by 2020.Of those 21 countries, Paraguay was declared malaria-free this year on the 11thof June.

Geographically,the global attention on efforts to eliminate malaria focus on sub-Sahara Africabut as you are here in Melbourne I want to stress that our region, theIndo-Pacific, also demands global attention. According to the WHO Indiaaccounts for 60 per cent of all cases outside sub-Sahara Africa and progress isbeing made. Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, Timor-Leste are all showingsignificant progress in decreasing malaria mortality. There is some good news -Maldives, Sri Lanka and a province in Vanuatu have been declared malaria-free.

China ismaking significant progress from 5,000 cases in 2010 to zero last year. Chinais on track to be declared malaria-free by 2020.

In PNG, acountry of 8 million people, WHO reports in 2016 there were 1.9 million caseswith 6,000 deaths. The Greater Mekong has become the epicentre of drugresistant threats and it has the potential to set back progress being made. Infact, the WHO has reported that progress in eliminating malaria stalled lastyear and some countries are reporting an increase in the rate in the incidents.

There is notime for complacency. In fact, this Congress is timely because we need toreassess our efforts. We need to reassess our ideas, our expertise, ourexperience, to see real progress being made once more.

In terms ofprevention, much is being achieved. Through the 2013-2016 period there werehalf-a-billion insecticide-treated malaria mosquito nets distributed globallyand 200 million more in sub-Saharan Africa over that three year period and theprevious three years.

Thanks tothe 2015 Nobel Prize winner Youyou Tu from China other options of anti-malarialtreatment are available. Artemisinin based Combination Therapy, ACT, is beingtaken up by many countries. We are yet to have a highly effective vaccine but Ithink with scientific and medical research and the technological advances thatwe are seeing, a highly effective vaccine is within our grasp.

On thediagnosis front I think we are doing far better. WHO again reports that thetesting rates are improving significantly, dramatically. In sub-Saharan Africafor example, back in 2010, 37 per cent of suspected cases were tested and in2016 it was 87 per cent.

Diseaseslike malaria know no borders. They don't respect or acknowledge borders andthat is why health security is a global challenge because we have to operateacross borders, we have to operate transnationally. We know that when publichealth systems come together globally we can transform the outcome. If you lookat the Global Polio Eradication Initiative of 1998 – the largest healthpublic-private partnership – we've seen cases reduced 99 per cent worldwide. Aphenomenal outcome based on global cooperation.

Last yearAustralia released a Foreign Policy White Paper, our first in 14 years, whichsets out a framework for our international engagement, our foreign policypriorities and initiatives hopefully for the next decade and beyond. We came tothe inescapable conclusion that we must focus on health security in our regionif we are to have healthy communities, if we are to have productive societiesand economic growth to underpin security and prosperity.

We announceda $300 million Indo-Pacific Health Security Initiative and pursuant to thisinitiative we have set up a centre, an Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Securitybringing together the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, our FederalHealth Department, our Defence Department, our scientific and medical andagricultural research agencies so that we can focus on supporting public healthsystems in our region through sending Australian health professionals into theregion, by bringing health professionals to Australia.

This work,this health security initiative will build on much of what we are already doingand in relation to malaria in particular, allow me to reference a number ofinitiatives: in PNG Australia and Chinaare partnering in a trilateral malaria project. China is bringing expertise,Australia is providing funding, PNG is supporting our work to focus oneradication measures and we are having some success.

We are alsoone of the core funders of APLMA which is one of the most difficult acronymsI've had to come across in my time as Foreign Minister, the Asia PacificLeaders Malaria Alliance. 21 countries endorsed the alliance. Australia and theGates Foundation have provided funded. We are certainly looking forward to morecountries supporting APLMA.

We supportthe Global Fund – our last investment was $220 million over three years and wework closely with Global Fund in the delivery of necessary pharmaceuticals andtreatments across our region. We support WHO more broadly but also in effortsto eliminate malaria. We are working in partnership with the Bill and MelindaGates Foundation and I was delighted to accept their invitation to join the EndMalaria Council chaired by Bill Gates.

We are alsoensuring that our Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade works closely withthe Therapeutic Goods Association, the agency here in Australia, to find moreeffective and timely ways of dealing with pharmaceuticals, bringingpharmaceuticals to market. We have also provided $450,000 for Australia AwardHealth Security Fellowships, bringing health professionals from the GreaterMekong here to Australia to work with researchers and health professionals hereand then of course returning to Greater Mekong with their new ideas, experienceand the expertise that they have gained.

Today I amdelighted to confirm that Australia will do more in the fields of anti-malariatreatments, in disease surveillance and in supporting the workforce. Thisbuilds on the announcement I made in London at the Commonwealth Heads ofGovernment meeting when we announced our focus on Product DevelopmentPartnerships - new drugs, new diagnostic tools and new vector control. Today Iam announcing seven grants valued at $16 million to five organisations - the Universityof New South Wales, the University of Sydney, the University of New Castle, theBurnet Institute here in Victoria and the Menzies School of Health Research inthe Northern Territory. These new grants will be for work in our region, inensuring that we can focus on what will make a difference in diseasesurveillance, in workforce capability and capacity and anti-malaria drugresistance research.

Delegates, Ican assure you that Australia is deeply committed to this goal of theelimination of Malaria but the key is to work in partnership. No one country,no one agency, no one foundation can do it alone. As we have seen with polioeradication, we can eliminate malaria in our lifetime. It is a staged processand we know that some countries will achieve it by 2020, others later, but ifwe work collectively and collaboratively this goal is within our grasp.

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