Photographer Pearl Gan’s photo-series “Malaria in Asia” has been highlighted in the latest issue of Dia:gram Magazine. Pearl has been working together with EOCRU Director Prof Kevin Baird in Indonesia on this project, in an effort to capture photographs and stories of real people living with malaria in this region, and to draw attention to the need for further investment in malaria control and elimination in South and Southeast Asia. The photo-series explores the journey of those affected by malaria, from the patients, to their immediate famiies and the community care providers. Pearl says, “We hope that the collection of photographs will raise awareness of the malaria burden suffered by the inhabitants of these remote communities. It is important to help people across the world to see into these isolated and impoverished communities in Asia Pacific, and that this new “visibility” will help boost efforts to reduce the suffering.”
In the interview with Dia:gram magazine, Prof Kevin Baird pointed out that malaria in Southeast Asia is a very different problem than malaria in Africa. The mosquito populations that transmit malaria are different species from African mosquitoes. Asian malaria is caused by a different strain of the malaria parasite; in Africa most malaria patients are infected with Plasmodium falciparum (P. falciparum), and while P. falciparum also exists in Asia, about half of the malaria cases are caused by a different strain: Plasmodium vivax (P. vivax). Vivax malaria is transmitted differently from falciparum malaria, and so it affects communities differently. In Asia many people do not have access to adequate diagnostic services and treatments, and this makes the problem of malaria more widespread. And on top of all this, Vivax malaria is difficult to treat: the main drug used (primaquine) is dangerous for the eight percent of people in South and Southeast Asia who have an inherited abnormality called G6PD deficiency.
Malaria represents an enormous and complex burden in South and Southeast Asia, and yet this region only receives a small fraction of the global funding for malaria control and elimination: of $2.7 billion USD invested in 2016 – only 7% was pegged for efforts in South and Southeast Asia. As Kevin is quoted in the article saying, “Our communities would benefit enormously by more vigorous efforts aimed specifically at the singular and diverse Asian malaria problem. We need research and better tools to get us there.”
Find out more
Pearl Gan’s article in the Lancet: Picturing health: Making malaria visible in the Asia Pacific