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WHO calls for equitable health access to prevention, diagnosis, treatment for malaria

Apr 25,2024

New Delhi: On the eve of the World Malaria Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) emphasised on the need for heightened focus on addressing the obstacles to health equity, gender equality and human rights in malaria responses.

Saima Wazed, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, stressed on redoubling efforts to overcome challenges posed by malaria and ensure all individuals, irrespective of their socio-economic status or geographical location, have access to prevention, diagnosis and treatment services for the disease.

“Moreover, by leveraging digital technology, we can better understand the diverse health needs of populations, collect and analyse data and monitor progress in real-time, enabling us to identify and address health inequities through both proven interventions and innovation in service delivery,” Wazed said.

“On World Malaria Day 2024, we unite under the theme ‘Accelerating the fight against malaria for a more equitable world’,” she said.

This theme, which is in sync with this year’s World Health Day theme — “My Health, My Right” — underscores the urgent need to address the stark inequities that persist in access to malaria prevention, detection and treatment services.

Wazed said in recent years, global efforts to reduce malaria have stagnated, posing a significant threat to public health and exacerbating inequalities within communities.

Everyone has the right to quality, timely and affordable malaria services, yet this remains elusive for many, perpetuating a cycle of inequity that disproportionately affects the most vulnerable among us, she stated.

Infants and young children, especially those under five, are particularly affected, with disparities in access to education and financial resources compounding their risk, Wazed said, adding that pregnant women also face heightened risks as pregnancy reduces immunity to malaria, making them more susceptible to infection and severe disease.

She added that refugees, migrants, internally displaced people and indigenous people are also at heightened risk of malaria.

“Malaria remains a significant public health challenge in our region, affecting nine out of eleven countries and accounting for a third of the global burden outside Africa,” the WHO regional director for South-East Asia said.

“Despite the formidable obstacles we face, I am heartened by the progress we have made in recent years. In recent years, our region witnessed a substantial decline in malaria cases and deaths, marking the most significant reduction among all WHO regions,” she added.

Wazed said their journey towards malaria elimination is still far from over. “While several countries are on track to meet the Global Technical Strategy (GTS) targets, challenges persist, particularly, in countries like Indonesia and Myanmar, where case incidence has seen an increase,” she said.

Accelerate the fight against malaria for a more equitable world by ending discrimination and stigma, engaging communities in health decision-making and bringing healthcare close to where people live and work through primary health care, Wazed said.

Source: Healthworld

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