Today in Port Moresby a gathering of experts will meet at Papua New Guinea’s 2012 National Malaria Summit to discuss the country’s plan to combat the life-threatening disease. Hosted by the National Department of Health, the summit will bring together key actors involved in the delivery of the PNG Malaria Control Program, allowing clinicians, public health practitioners and researchers the opportunity to provide updates on provincial progress against the disease and to revise up-to-date prevention and treatment strategies.
One of the organisations involved in the summit will be the Papua New Guinea Institute for Medical Research (PNGIMR), PNG’s leading medical scientific research institute. PNGIMR drives a strong PNG based research agenda, which identifies appropriate solutions for scientifically-informed responses to malaria in the Pacific region. In its most recent reports PNGIMR has urged funders to seriously consider the challenging setting that PNG provides in implementing malaria treatment and prevention programs.
Indeed, malaria continues to be a significant public health challenge in Papua New Guinea. The disease is the country’s most common outpatient diagnosis, with the World Health Organisation reporting approximately 1.36 million cases per year. This makes malarial infection the second-highest leading reason for hospital admission. Approximately 90% of the population is at risk of infection with some 800 malaria-related deaths in 2011; most of these being children under the age of five.
Participants at today’s National Malaria Summit will include the Oil Search Health Foundation, Rotarians Against Malaria and Population Services International. In partnership with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, these organisations have been instrumental in assisting the Papua New Guinea National Department of Health in adopting of the PNG Malaria Control Program. The collaborative nature of the program itself has achieved impressive results, and since 2007 has seen over 5.5 million insecticide treated bed nets distributed and resulted in a reduction in the incidence of malarial infections within the community from 13% in 2009 to 6.5% in 2011 (PNGIMR, forthcoming).
The address of malaria as a significant public health burden in Papua New Guinea and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region will also form the basis of high-level discussions in the upcoming 2012 International Malaria Summit, which will be held in Sydney and hosted by AusAID in late October this year.
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Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is a high-level advocacy organisation which seeks to mobilise regional awareness of the serious threat posed by HIV & AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to societies and economies in the Pacific. In pursuing its goals Pacific Friends has a specific interest in highlighting the need to protect the rights of women and children in the Pacific.