Washington, DC, 24 June 2020 (PAHO)—The Pan American Health Organization supports countries' efforts on malaria elimination responding to potential disruptions to healthcare supply chains and stockouts of key antimalarial supplies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Ensuring timely access to key medicines and supplies that are difficult to procure is crucial while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said James Fitzgerald, Director of PAHO’s Department of Health Systems and Services.
To ensure a rapid response and prevent disruptions of antimalarial supplies, the PAHO Strategic Fund in coordination with the Regional Warehouse facilitated the availability and delivery of chloroquine to Belize and Panama where shortages were pending due to global supply chain disruptions of key APIs (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients).
“It is crucial to sustain efforts in malaria diagnosis, treatment, and surveillance, in synergy with the COVID-19 pandemic response,” said Marcos Espinal, Director of the Department of Communicable Diseases.
Additionally, PAHO supported donations of antimalarial medications, primaquine and chloroquine, to Haiti after the country was impacted by delivery problems, and to Dominican Republic in light of increasing reported cases during first trimester in 2020.
These efforts for sustaining malaria diagnosis, treatment, and prevention were possible on account of the availability of essential medicines and supplies within PAHO’s Regional Warehouse located in Panama. The Regional Warehouse was established in 2014, after several Member States noted difficulty in procuring antimalarials, citing inadequate distribution systems and limited local providers as key barriers. Following initial donations of medicines to manage neglected tropical diseases such as Chagas disease and leishmaniasis, the Warehouse has grown to support access, distribution, and continuous availability of quality-assured treatments and supplies, including Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), artesunate IV, antiparasitic medications, and other specific products such as mosquito nets and malaria rapid diagnostics tests (RDTs).
“The Regional Warehouse has been vital in helping to manage malaria, both for Member States with a high-burden of endemic cases and those that may be nearing elimination but face imported cases yearly,” said Christopher Lim, Chief, PAHO’s Strategic Fund for Public Health Supplies.
Even in countries certified as malaria-free, ensuring adequate minimum stockpiles of antimalarials is crucial to preventing reestablishment of the disease. Since Member States require varying of medicines and supplies for prompt treatment, the Regional Warehouse maintains critical antimalarial reserves to avoid challenges in obtaining even small, but necessary quantities. Additionally, this Warehouse mitigates against issues that arise on account of delivery problems and/or changes in national policies of exporting countries.
PAHO experts have also noted the need for appropriate diagnostic testing and treatment of patients as well as core malaria prevention measures such as insecticide-treated nets and indoor residual spraying in order to protect and improve malaria elimination efforts.
Through support from the PAHO Strategic Fund and related technical and procurement departments, the Regional Warehouse facilitated the timely shipment of 400,000 products to 16 countries in 2019 alone. This has enabled Member States to collectively act in accessing to medicines that are difficult to procure and thus be able to achieve their commitments towards the elimination of various diseases in the region.