The past decade has seen unprecedented progress against many of the world’s leading global health challenges, including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Thanks to bold commitment by political and business leaders alike, we have seen increased investment in global health and steady progress toward ambitious goals like the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

With malaria control, for example, there has been notable improvement since the start of the new millennium, particularly due to greater involvement of a wide variety of partners and increased external funding for endemic countries. With increased coordination of the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) partners and under the technical leadership of the World Health Organization (WHO), global malaria death rates have declined by an estimated 42 per cent since 2000, contributing to a 20 per cent reduction in child mortality and helping drive progress against a variety of other health and development targets across the board. Our efforts have helped avert an estimated 3.3 million deaths between 2001 and 2012 — 90 per cent of which were estimated to be children under the age of 5.

 With less than 700 days left until the 2015 deadline of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), one thing is certain: all sectors of society must be involved in the fight against malaria if our gains are to be sustained and scaled-up in hard-to-reach communities. This will require a multi-sector, country-led approach against remaining challenges, with actors from various sectors working together to maximize the impact of our limited resources.

Nowhere is this more relevant than here in India, where I’m happy to be joining with partners to commemorate World Malaria Day (25 April). I am particularly struck by the unique opportunity we have in India to engage a booming economy to help overcome some of the most tragic and pressing health issues impacting the country’s development, including malaria.

The malaria community has long enjoyed a positive relationship with the private sector, leveraging its skillsets to expand markets and increase access to life-saving interventions. Time and time again, we’ve seen private sector engagement in health issues around the world yield big results, with investments creating healthier communities, a more productive workforce and more vibrant economies. Private sector engagement in malaria doesn’t only protect the bottom line; it produces real, sustainable progress against the global health and development agenda for the broader community.

Throughout the Asia-Pacific, there are countless examples of this. From Papua New Guinea to Myanmar, we’ve seen investments by Oil Search Limited and Moattama Gas Transportation Company respectively help drive down malaria burden, increase productivity and save healthcare costs.

With 95 per cent of the Indian population living in malaria-endemic areas, and an estimated 1 million cases of infection in 2012 reported by the government, we have a tremendous opportunity to leverage the reach of the private sector to scale-up malaria-control efforts and create healthier, more stable communities.

In the face of financial and biological challenges, I encourage Indian industry leaders to consider joining with the government to engage in efforts that will help further advance progress against malaria and foster greater development for all. Now, more than ever, we must work together to facilitate meaningful public-private partnerships to ensure all are protected from the fatal bite of a mosquito.

Investments in malaria prevention and control have been among the best investments in global health, resulting in a dramatic decrease in malaria deaths and illness and driving progress against broader development efforts by reducing school absenteeism, fighting poverty and improving maternal and child health. We know that when we invest in malaria, the cost is low and the return is high.

The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has made malaria a top priority of his second mandate. Many leaders in the Asia-Pacific have echoed this commitment, including Prime Ministers Tony Abbott of Australia and Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam, who are serving as Co-chairs of the recently formed Asia-Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA), a regional alliance of Heads of Government aimed at combating malaria and containing the spread of drug resistant malaria through cross-border and multisectoral collaboration. During the launch of APLMA at last October's East Asia Summit, 18 leaders, including the President of India endorsed APLMA and welcomed its creation.

As we work to answer the Secretary-General’s call and deliver on the promises we have made to the people of the world, particularly in an area ripe with new economic opportunities, I urge all partners to work together, across and within sectors. No one group or government can overcome this killer, but if we work together in innovative and meaningful ways, I believe we can. As one of the most powerful emerging economies in the world, Indian industry has an opportunity to lead by example and help provide health and opportunity to entire communities for generations to come.

HERVÉ VERHOOSEL

(Representative at the United Nations in New York and Head of External Relations, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership)

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