WHO makes progress battling drug resistant malaria in Cambodia Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Beating Malaria in the Greater Mekong Subregion

Though malaria still poses a major threat to millions of people around the world, there has been significant progress toward eliminating the disease in severely affected areas. By working together across borders, six Southeast Asian countries have created a model that the world should follow.

NEW DELHI/MANILA – In Southeast Asia’s Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), the battle against malaria is advancing at a rapid pace. Between 2012 and 2017, reported malaria cases fell by a staggering 84%, with deaths from the disease down by 93%. In Cambodia, China’s Yunnan Province, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, more people are free of malaria’s deadly menace than ever before.

To understand the magnitude of this achievement, it helps to go back to 2008, when artemisinin-resistant malaria parasites were first confirmed along the vast, densely forested Thai-Cambodian border. That finding immediately became a source of deep concern, because artemisinin is a critical ingredient in treatments for Plasmodium falciparum malaria, the deadliest form of the mosquito-borne parasite.

The discovery of resistant strains of malaria meant not just that it would be harder to treat, but that the overall approach to fighting the disease would have to change. National malaria prevention and treatment programs were fortified, and monitoring at field operations in affected areas was tightened significantly.

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