Muscat: While there has been great progress in the battle against malaria in the Gulf region, which includes the Arabic Peninsula, the Caucuses and northwest Asia in this Roll Back Malaria (RBM) report, some 250 million people here remain at the risk of catching malaria. Each year, approximately 2.9 million people in the region are infected with it, and an estimated 3,100 people lose their lives.
Herve Verhoosel, Head of External Relations and Representative for the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership in New York, spoke to Times of Oman ahead of his visit to Muscat today. He delved on the latest report, the current malaria landscape, the work of RBM and the important role the GCC countries could play in the fight against malaria. Excerpts:
Why are you visiting the Gulf region this week?
I am here to advance dialogue on malaria and the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), at the request of Princess Astrid of Belgium, Special Representative to the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership. Countries in the Gulf region are important allies in the fight against malaria, and I am excited to be here to meet with leading government officials to exchange views on global malaria control efforts.
What role could countries like Oman play to help RBM achieve its goals?
Oman could be a strong ally in the fight against malaria, specifically through increased investment in malaria control efforts by, for example, supporting the Roll Back Malaria partners. As a political leader and a key member of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Oman is also well positioned to encourage political leadership and investment by neighbouring countries in global malaria control efforts.
What role could the GCC play in the global efforts against malaria?
As the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) takes on a more prominent role globally, the fight against malaria presents a key opportunity for the group and its member countries, particularly given the announcement earlier this year by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, that malaria is one of his key priorities under his second mandate.
GCC countries have an opportunity to lead by example, making wise financial investments in global malaria control efforts to help countless communities in OIC countries and thrive around the world. The GCC's support for malaria control efforts in Yemen, where 60 per cent of the population is at risk of malaria infection, would also be important. Despite increased efforts and funding, malaria continues to infect an estimated 800,000 Yemeni people each year, and the GCC could play a critical role in the country's efforts to overcome the disease.
What is the current status of global malaria control efforts?
In recent years, we've seen significant progress against malaria. We've decreased global malaria deaths by one-third, and 43 countries worldwide have reduced their malaria cases or deaths by 50 per cent. And, enough insecticide treated nets have been distributed to cover nearly 80 per cent of the population at risk in sub-Saharan Africa. But still, our successes are partial and fragile. Almost half of the world's population remains at risk from malaria. Despite unprecedented advances in prevention, diagnostics and treatment, malaria continues to infect approximately 216 million people each year, killing an estimated 655,000. RBM recently launched a report called 'Progress and Impact: Defeating Malaria in Asia, the Pacific, Americas, Middle East and Europe'.
What is this report about and why is it important?
'Defeating Malaria in Asia, the Pacific, Americans, Middle East and Europe' is part of RBM's Progress and Impact series, which highlights a strategic effort to secure high levels of commitment to malaria control among donor countries, international health organisations and governments of endemic and epidemic countries by benchmarking progress and documenting impact in the fight against malaria in speci