Neither the Plasmodium parasite, the cause of malaria infection, nor the Anopheles mosquito, the primary vector of the malaria parasite, recognize national borders, meaning that high rates of mobility in malaria-endemic regions can introduce malaria infections from one area to another. The importation of malaria parasites from “sources” to “sinks” necessitates greater collaboration on malaria elimination across regions. Regional initiatives are formalized partnerships between countries that facilitate joint action towards a common goal. They catalyze political commitment, build consensus and engagement, facilitate information sharing, and harmonize technical approaches across countries. Regional partnerships for malaria have been established in the Asia Pacific, southern Africa, and the Americas, among others, to accelerate progress towards elimination and eventual eradication.
Recognizing the advantages of a regional approach to malaria elimination, the MEI has been a catalyst and provided significant technical, operational, and financial support to two regional initiatives – the Elimination Eight (E8) Regional Initiative in southern Africa and the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN). Having ignited the regional elimination agenda in 2007, the MEI uses its extensive experience in building and strengthening regional collaborations to support national and regional malaria elimination goals and to accelerate progress towards zero.
Elimination Eight (E8) Regional Initiative – Southern Africa
The E8 Regional Initiative is a coordinated, eight-country effort to achieve malaria elimination in four countries in southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland) by 2020 and pave the way for progressive elimination in four additional countries (Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) by 2030.
The MEI’s contributions to the E8 include:
- Foundation: The E8 was established in 2009 through a coordinated effort among the MEI, the Minister of Health and Social Services of Namibia, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, the World Health Organization, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the eight participating country partners. In 2015, the MEI supported the establishment of the E8 Secretariat in Windhoek, Namibia, the creation of which has accelerated regional collaboration in southern Africa.
- Financing: The MEI supported the development of the E8 Regional Concept Note to the Global Fund, resulting in a three year, US$ 17.8 million regional grant. Through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the MEI also provides direct financial support to the E8 Secretariat for a range of operational and technical activities that complement the Global Fund grant.
- Strategy: The MEI supported the development of the E8 Strategic Plan 2015-2020, which outlines a series of strategic objectives designed to coordinate activities among member states and partners as they jointly pursue elimination in southern Africa. The E8 is critical to elimination in the region, as it focuses on enhancing activities at the cross-border and regional level rather than duplicating country efforts.
- Technical assistance: The MEI serves as a technical partner of the E8 Technical Committee, the E8 Surveillance, Monitoring, and Evaluation Technical Working Group, and the E8 Vector Control Technical Working Group.
- Operations: The MEI provides operational support to the E8 Secretariat. This support includes assisting the Secretariat develop its administrative and procurement systems and convene meetings of the E8 Ministerial and Technical Committees and Working Groups.
Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN) – Asia Pacific
In collaboration with the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA), APMEN supports countries in accelerating progress towards a malaria-free Asia Pacific by 2030. Since its foundation in 2009, APMEN has provided a platform for capacity building, knowledge sharing and partnership among national malaria programs and Partner Institutions to tackle malaria elimination challenges in the Asia Pacific region. APMEN is currently composed of 18 Country Partners, including: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vanuatu, and Vietnam.
The MEI’s contributions to APMEN include:
- Foundation: APMEN was established through a coordinated effort among the MEI, the University of Queensland (UQ), and the ten inaugural country partners, with financial support from the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT; formerly through AusAID), and in close collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO). The MEI and UQ served as Co-Secretariat for APMEN from 2009-2015. The APMEN Secretariat functions are currently transitioning to a combined Secretariat with APLMA.
- Financing: The MEI provides direct financial and in-kind support to APMEN to sustain technical and operational activities. Through a grant to the MEI from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the MEI provides core funding support for the APMEN Surveillance and Response Working Group, with in-kind contributions from Jiangsu Institute of Parasitic Diseases. The MEI also received funding from Sumitomo Chemicals in 2014, which supported the APMEN Insecticide Resistance Workshop in 2014, APMEN Fellows in 2015 and 2016 and analytical projects on vector control in the Asia Pacific.
- Strategy: The MEI has provided strategic input and guidance on APMEN’s strategy, particularly technical inputs that have guided the regional research agenda and discussions during the APMEN annual meetings. The MEI has also helped cultivate a strong and productive relationship between APMEN and APLMA which first resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding between both parties in October 2014.
- Operations: The MEI has supported APMEN programming by providing operational support for activities such as the APMEN Fellowship Program, coordination support for APMEN annual meetings and APMEN Surveillance and Response Working Group meetings.
- Documenting and Disseminating Best Practices: The MEI has promoted the regional approach to elimination by documenting and disseminating best practices. The MEI has facilitated cross-regional learning between APMEN and the Elimination 8 in southern Africa and contributed to the Roll Back Malaria Progress and Impact Report on APMEN’s role in malaria elimination in the Asia Pacific. The MEI also highlights the role of APMEN and the Country Partners in publications, including peer-reviewed journal articles, reports, and case studies, presentations, and trainings to inform strategic planning and decision making at country and regional levels.