News / Health

Program Launched to Counter Drug-Resistant Malaria

A malaria patient is comforted in the only hospital in Pailin, western Cambodia. (File)
A malaria patient is comforted in the only hospital in Pailin, western Cambodia. (File)
Robert Carmichael
On World Malaria Day, the World Health Organization has launched an emergency program in Phnom Penh to tackle a worrying regional trend - a strain of malaria that is proving resistant to the most important anti-malarial drug.

Six years ago, health researchers were worried after a strain of malaria in western Cambodia began to show resistance to the world’s key malaria treatment - Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy, known as ACT.

In response, the Cambodian government and its health partners, including the World Health Organization, put in place a program to prevent the resistant strain (falciparum malaria) from spreading within Cambodia and beyond its borders.

That program appears to have contained the resistant strain.  But Thailand, Burma and Vietnam have reported pockets of artemisinin-resistant malaria strains.

The WHO malaria specialist in Phnom Penh, Stephen Bjorge, said it is likely the strains in those countries arose independently of Cambodia’s - which means the containment efforts have worked.

But because artemisinin is the standard treatment, it is important the resistant strains in all of these areas are contained and then eradicated.  That is the purpose of a three-year, $400-million program the World Health Organization announced Thursday.

“The risks are significant - not only are they significant for the region in terms of having a reversal of the gains that have been made against malaria, but they are actually significant globally," said Robert Newman, director of the WHO’s Global Malaria Program.  "If history is any guide, if we were not to contain this problem then it is very likely to spread elsewhere.  Especially risky is to sub-Saharan Africa, where the greatest burden still exists.  And, if we were to lose the efficacy of the ACTs today, this really would be a public health catastrophe in Africa.”

The WHO-led program is being funded by the Global Fund, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and by the Australian government’s development arm called AusAID.

It will cover six countries: the four where resistance has already been found, as well as two more considered to be “at risk” from the resistant strain: Laos and an area of southern China.

Newman said some of the lessons learned from Cambodia’s efforts are being used.

“This is not starting from zero," he explained.  "It is building on the experience initially on the Cambodia-Thailand border where those countries gained a lot of experience in how to reach the populations that are actually most difficult to reach - migrant and mobile populations, how to use village health care workers, how to more aggressively remove substandard medicines from the market.”

The program will distribute insecticide-treated bed nets; monitor fake drugs; ensure people have access to reliable testing and treatment; and track the disease.  Migrant communities and people living in border regions will be key targets of the program.

AusAID has provided  $5 million of funding for the program. 

“Well, our initial funding is fixed, but the reality is Australia is part of this region,"  said AusAID’s principal health advisor Ben David.  "We are part of the Asia-Pacific and we see this as a critical investment to protect the poor in the region from malaria, but also to protect the interests of countries because if this problem gets out of control and we see malaria drug resistance spread in the region and beyond, then we are in to face a big set of problems.”

David says, last year, malaria killed 42,000 people in the Asia-Pacific region and more than half a million worldwide, most of them children in Africa.

Recent years have seen good progress in tackling malaria, but the WHO warns that could be undone should the resistant strains escape the current pockets in the countries of the Greater Mekong sub-region.

David believes governments will do their part to prevent the spread.

“It has actually got significant economic implications, if this problem of resistance continues.  So, we really need to make the economic case to governments to continue to invest in this problem,” he added.

The chloroquine-resistant malaria strain has caused millions of deaths globally since it emerged 60 years ago from the forests of western Cambodia.

The World Health Organization warns the world cannot afford a similar repeat outbreak by allowing the new strain or strains of artemisinin-resistant malaria to escape the region.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs