Mr. Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Iran
World Malaria Day 2013
Bismillah – hey – Rahman – ur – Rehim,
Salaam va Sobhe be kheyr.
Excellency Dr. Azizi, Governor-General of Hormozgan Province,
Mr. Ashuri, MP from Bandar Abbas and Member of the Board of Parliamentarians,
Dr. Shekaari, Chancellor of Hormozgan Medical University,
Dr. Heidari, Vice-Chairman of the CCM of Iran,
Dr. Gouya, Head of Centre for Disease Control,
Dr. Tawilah, WHO Representative,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to be here, on my very first mission outside of Tehran since taking office as UN Resident Coordinator about a month ago.
Today we commemorate, with you, this year’s World Malaria Day. At the outset, I would like to thank the Ministry of Health and the Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences for making it possible for us all to get together and renew our joint commitment to eliminate malaria.
In the United Nations, we see malaria not just as a devastating disease bringing sickness and sadness to those it afflicts. We see it also as something which affects families and communities. It undermines the ability of breadwinners to earn a living. It imposes costs on those who cannot afford to spend money on medicine. It isolates people from their society. It stops development.
Our UN Secretary General – Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, in lending his voice on the occasion of World Malaria Day, said this:
“Since world leaders adopted the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, a broad partnership of governments, United Nations entities, philanthropies and businesses has combined to protect hundreds of millions of people from malaria. Increased international funding, matched by growing political commitment in endemic countries, triggered a massive increase in preventive interventions and expanded access to diagnostic testing and life-saving medicines, averting more than a million deaths.”
“Averting more than one million deaths.” This is a major accomplishment. And I would like to pause and recognize the great contribution of so many of those in the room today – both at the policy level and at the operational level – in contributing to this goal. Mr. Azizi’s remarks just now show how committed the Government of the Islamic Republic is – with positivity and optimism to achieving the goal of eradication.
In line with this, I am delighted to note the high level of national will which the Islamic Republic of Iran has demonstrated in devoting resources to combat malaria. The Islamic Republic has indeed committed itself to reaching two ambitious targets:
· to eliminate falciparum malaria by 2016, and
· to eliminate all cases of malaria by 2024.
It is true – as I have said – that I am new in my current assignment in the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, many years ago, I served the United Nations on the other side of your border with Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province.
That experience gave me insights into the danger which malaria poses to people’s everyday lives. Particularly to people who are poor and who are vulnerable.
I am also aware of the movement into Iran – or through Iran – by people seeking more economic opportunities to work and improve the lives of their families to whom they send back money. Unfortunately, this movement of people – if it occurs from malaria-prone areas – brings with it the risk of continuing (or re-introducing) the burden of the disease.
In this context, I would like to recognize the disease burdens that Iran is shouldering as a result of migration into the country – migration which is both legal and illegal. Many of those who migrate from the east end up here in Bandar Abbas, because this city offers work opportunities as well as a transit point for an onward journey, normally to countries on the Khalij–e–Fars.
Even though the Islamic Republic is aware of the public health and financial impact of these population movements, Iran nonetheless shoulders this burden. The United Nations salutes the non-discriminatory approach which Iran’s health system is taking to provide malaria care and treatment services to both Iranian and non-Iranians alike. More than this, the service is provided free of charge.
The United Nations believes that this undertaking by Iran needs to be recognized more widely – both within our immediate region – and by the wider international community.
We also hope that in future this “hidden dimension” of the disease burden will be fully recognized by our donor partners as they make their funding assessments using various criteria for considering what is the real – effective – “disease burden”.
On this special day, please also allow me to speak more broadly on the role of the Unite Nations in partnering with the Islamic Republic of Iran on public health matters as part of our development cooperation framework.
In fact, public health concerns lie at the very heart of our cooperation agenda in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is well reflected in our UN Development Assistance Framework 2012-2016 which has been agreed with the Government. Public health support is central – in various ways – to the work of 7 UN agencies.
But with specific reference to fighting malaria, we can say the following.
When our former Secretary-General – Mr. Kofi Annan – established the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria (or, the Global Fund) back in 2002, the world witnessed a fresh push to combat three debilitating diseases.
Since then, we have done much together. In Iran, our partnership – through Global Fund programmes – has resulted in three things:
1. the establishment of the Country Coordinating Mechanism,
2. the designation of a Global Fund principal recipient and sub-recipients,
3. the designation of sub-sub-recipients who implement the projects on the ground and bridge the identified gaps in the national action programmes.
I would like to pause and recognize the great work of our implementing partner – the Universities of Medical Science – in managing our malaria programme. We work with 14 of these universities. But all 41 are represented here today and we welcome them. We welcome those colleagues who are working on the ground at the district and village level to save lives. And we recognize the leadership of Dr. Ahmad Raeisi, Head of the National Malaria Programme, in inspiring so many to do so much.
You Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow me to ask you to join in a round of applause to recognize the work of these colleagues. All are leaders.
Our work with the Global Fund started in 2005. So far we have mobilized projects worth 84 million US dollars to fight all 3 diseases. Of this amount 20 million dollars has been given to treating malaria – starting in 2008.
The current phase of the malaria project will come to an end in 2014. Our malaria project brings together the Centre for Communicable Disease Control, WHO and UNDP. We work closely with medical universities in the affected provinces under the overall supervision of the Country Coordinating Mechanism.
All of this is done in full harmony with national strategies and action plans.
Our project area covers 11 provinces. All in all, over 33 million people have benefitted – either directly or indirectly – from this massive effort.
Iran has already started preparing for the next phase of the malaria project for the period 2014-2016 with a proposed financial outlay of 10.5 million dollars.
I take this opportunity to express the gratitude of the United Nations to our national partners including the Ministry of Health and the medical universities. I also take this opportunity to praise the diligent work of my colleagues – both past and present – from WHO, UNICEF, and UNDP for their valuable contribution and continued support to the malaria elimination initiative.
What has been the result of Iran’s dedicated effort? We have dramatically reduced locally-transmitted malaria cases during recent years. With the help of the Global Fund’s resources, we now have new tools and facilities. We use these to continue to try to eliminate malaria. We provide drugs. We expand access to diagnostic facilities. We distribute long-lasting insecticide-treated nets. We establish emergency sites to provide such services when the need arises.
These are experiences which I believe Iran can be proud of. These are lessons which – with the support of the United Nations – I believe we can share with other countries in the region. I commit the United Nations to try to do so.
For the threat of malaria is not something contained by national boundaries. Iran’s experience certainly tells us this. Often you have made progress only to see this progress reversed by cross-border movement of people who are unknowingly – and innocently – carrying the parasite.
Let me conclude by reiterating our Secretary-General’s message reminding us that “the theme for this year’s global World Malaria Day campaign is ‘Invest in the future. Defeat malaria’. And so, I return to my main point. If we control malaria we do more than just improve human health. We boost social well-being and we promote human development. We make people’s lives healthier and – perhaps – even a little happier.
For this reason, I address these words to the global health community – and those who may hear or read them after today’s in Bandar Abbas event is over. Please help the United Nations to keep investing in order to defeat malaria.
To the political leaders in endemic countries I say this: please maintain the same level of support we see here in Iran. We must provide universal access to malaria interventions. We must end the needless suffering from this very preventable and treatable disease. And I commit the United Nations to continuing to support the Islamic Republic of Iran – within our means – to eradicate malaria.
Mamnoun – and thank you all.