What is APMEN?
The Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN) is a network of countries and stakeholders in the Asia Pacific region, that are committed to working towards malaria elimination. The Network acts as a platform to allow collaboration and exchange between regional malaria control programs and a range of international elimination partners from the academic, non-governmental and private sectors, as well as the World Health Organization (WHO).
APMEN was established in 2009 to bring attention and support to the under-appreciated and little-known work of malaria elimination in Asia Pacific, with a particular focus on addressing the unique challenges of Plasmodium vivax malaria. Beginning with 10 founding countries in 2009, APMEN now consists of 18 Country Partners: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), India, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea (ROK), the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vanuatu and Vietnam.
With major funding from the Australian Government, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and support from many other partners, the Network’s aim is to collaboratively address the unique challenges of malaria elimination in the region, through knowledge exchange, capacity strengthening and building the evidence base for elimination. APMEN also works in close partnership with the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA), to enhance and streamline the Asia Pacific’s regional response to malaria. The APLMA-APMEN partnership aims to strengthen elimination efforts through combining the political advocacy and multisectorial access of APLMA with APMEN’s technical expertise and engagement with malaria control programs.
From 2017, APMEN and APLMA will undertake a joint program of work, to integrate and complement regional elimination efforts, and enhance support to countries and communities of the Asia Pacific as they progress toward malaria elimination. APMEN’s activities will continue to support Asia Pacific countries through facilitating collaboration, strengthening knowledge exchange around regional priorities, and enhancing the capacity of regional countries to achieve elimination.
To support and facilitate elimination of malaria across Asia Pacific by 2030: Driving implementation of the APLMA Leaders Malaria Elimination Roadmap by stimulating collaborations to address specific capacity gaps for selected Roadmap priorities, and providing a platform to promote operational research to address specific knowledge gaps.
The need for a Network to provide a platform for collaboration was identified in 2008, with the realization of limited avenues for Asia Pacific countries and institutions to discuss and address issues relating to malaria elimination. There was a particular need to address the unique challenge of high proportions of Plasmodium vivax (P. vivax) infections, which can cause recurrent illness. Since 2009, APMEN has served as a valuable forum for regional collaboration towards the goal of a malaria free Asia Pacific.
In its first six years, APMEN made remarkable achievements in supporting malaria elimination, and has developed a reputation as a collegial and effective Network for promoting and supporting elimination efforts in the Asia Pacific region. Within the evolving global malaria landscape, APMEN provides support to a range of activities (including annual meetings, workshops, training Fellowships, and small research grants) to facilitate knowledge exchange around regional priorities, and to build the necessary evidence and capacity of regional countries to achieve elimination.
As a result of intensified global and regional efforts for elimination and improving socioeconomic conditions, many countries in the Asia Pacific Region have made great strides in moving toward elimination. However, elimination requires a different strategy than sustained control. In addition, new challenges have emerged that require collective action, including the threats of artemisinin resistance and insecticide resistance; alongside other ongoing challenges in ensuring effective approaches to surveillance, vector control and diagnostics. These threats were recognized in recent regional commitments made to malaria elimination by both governments and international donors.
In November 2014, leaders of Asia Pacific nations at the 9th East Asian Summit reconfirmed their commitment to achieving regional malaria elimination by 2030. In the same month, Bill Gates once again called for the global eradication of malaria within his lifetime, encouraging the development of new tools through enhanced multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral collaboration. In 2015, the leaders at the 10th East Asia Summit reaffirmed their support of malaria elimination by endorsing the APLMA Leaders Malaria Elimination Roadmap, a tool that will guide malaria elimination efforts in the Asia Pacific for years to come. The WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016–2030 was also adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2015. In 2016, the Second Global Malaria Action Plan will be released, detailing the global strategy for malaria elimination from 2016 to 2030.
As we walk the final miles against malaria and the burden of disease decreases, it is vital to maintain motivation and commitment of resources. History has taught us that if we fail to remain diligent in our efforts, we risk a malaria resurgence that will undermine what has been achieved to date. We are particularly at risk now, because some of our best tools – malaria medicines and insecticides – are losing their effectiveness. A growth in resistant strains of malaria will increase the number of malaria cases and deaths significantly. This makes the need for strong regional collaboration more important than ever.