Roll Back Malaria Progress & Impact Series
The Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN): Supporting the common goal of a malaria-free Asia Pacific
The APMEN was established in 2009 with growing political support from within the region and substantial financial assistance, namely from the Australian Government. Since then, it has not only emphasized and shared the successes of malaria control across a highly diverse region, but it has also worked with regional country programmes towards advancing the fight against the disease a few steps further on the continuum to elimination. Today it brings 16 countries and a wide range of international malaria control institutions together, with a formal commitment to support each other’s efforts and to achieve the long term goal of eliminating malaria regionally. It provides complementary support to the WHO and RBM Partnership efforts and contributions that have assisted, and continue to assist, the countries of the region progress their malaria agendas.
APMEN has been a significant contributor in accelerating the elimination agenda in the Asia Pacific through its core functions and, in that regard, it has undoubtedly become a model for other regions to consider. As high-level political will for malaria elimination is continuing to strengthen in that part of the world, two priorities have been identified for APMEN to support: mobilization of sustained commensurate funding levels to reach and maintain elimination; and fine-tuning of elimination implementation approaches involving private-public partnerships, community engagement, crosssectoral work and cross-border activities.
An achieving network
APMEN has achieved several successes in its core areas of advocacy and leadership, knowledge exchange, capacity building and building the evidence base for elimination. It has developed a country-led network with a strong sense of country ownership, progressing the elimination agenda in the region by providing advocacy and leadership for elimination and bringing attention to challenges and successes. Through annual meetings, working groups, study tours and workshops, APMEN partners are able to share experiences, identify priorities and develop strategies. APMEN builds capacity via training activities, including its fellowships programme, while the working groups and the country partner technical development programme have built the evidence base on matters of critical importance to the region. Central to APMEN’s success has been its well-developed governance processes, its collegial and collaborative platform and the diverse composition of the network that supports a collaborative approach to elimination within the network and with other critical malaria partners, such as WHO and the RBM Partnership.
Sharing and learning from others’ experiences
APMEN, recognizing that sharing and learning from others’ experiences is central to achieving elimination, has developed a range of knowledgesharing activities that help identify priority areas for action and the need for capacity building among malaria programme staff. Face-to-face meetings are essential to developing a shared agenda, as are practical opportunities to observe elimination programmes, such as the study tours. While APMEN enables countries to agree on priority areas for action, the thematic focus of APMEN discussions changes in response to the changing malaria landscape. Adaptability and flexibility allow for knowledge exchange to remain relevant to the evolving needs of countries as they move towards elimination.
APMEN brings together 16 countries, 33 partner institutions and other organizations that contribute in various capacities. It also continues to build partnerships between NMCPs, research institutions, WHO SEARO and WPRO, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, other malaria networks and donors from both the public and private sectors. APMEN has established formal partnerships beyond the network with initiatives, such as the Malaria Atlas Project (MAP), the Malaria Elimination Group (MEG), the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN), Malaria No More, Malaria Consortium and Jhpiego.
APMEN has generated informal partnerships within the network, these collegial ties and mentoring relationships valued by partners as a means to better understand the priorities of others across the sector and develop efficiencies in their own work. Since many partners participate in APMEN in a pro-bono capacity, this presents good value for money. However, these informal partnerships, while common and valued, tend to operate on an interpersonal rather than on an institutional level. Countries continue to pursue elimination independently but with increased knowledge sharing and a greater awareness of cross-regional issues and the strategies employed by others, knowing they have peers from whom they can seek support and advice.
Lessons of collaborative, regional approaches to elimination
APMEN can offer many lessons to other regions wishing to establish collaborative approaches to malaria elimination. Some apply to all types of regional initiatives, while some are unique to networks. Challenges APMEN has faced include maintaining focus in a diverse and rapidly changing malaria landscape, developing mechanisms for engaging with others in the global health architecture and identifying benchmarks for measuring success. APMEN shows that a successful elimination network is an adaptive, learning organization; establishes clear and relevant aims that reflect country needs; attracts a strong base of expertise; has a defined role in regional health architecture; develops clear governance and an effective secretariat; and advocates for sustainable funding and ongoing political support to reach and sustain elimination.
APMEN is growing and adapting, and working to support countries in the region to reach and sustain elimination. Following the formation of APLMA, in February 2014 the Australian Government renewed its commitment to malaria elimination as part of the US$ 17 million grant to the newly formed Regional Malaria and Other Communicable Diseases Trust Fund within the Asian Development Bank.60 As momentum gathers around elimination efforts, APMEN will continue to adapt to changes in the malaria landscape. In March 2014, APMEN country partners signed a Declaration of Commitment, supporting the Malaria 2012 Declaration target that half of the countries in the region will have achieved their elimination targets by 2025, and reconfirming a commitment to working together to pursue the long term goal of regional malaria elimination.61 APMEN’s fluidity, its reputation as a successful and collegiate platform, and its unique combination of expertise and country ownership will ensure that APMEN continues to play a vital role in pursuing malaria elimination in the Asia Pacific.