There is almost a unanimous voice among national malaria control programs of Asia Pacific countries saying that there is dire need to build the capacity of entomologists, a profession that is critically important within the national program, but unfortunately not receiving much attention for long-term human resource investment in that profession. APMEN VCWG (Vector Control Working Group) recognizes this gap and the country partners wish APMEN to deliver more need-focused capacity building programs, facilitate and stimulate information sharing and transfer of knowledge.

APMEN countries are at different stages of malaria elimination milestones.  Mr. Sun Dingwei, APMEN Scholar from China explains China’s unique challenge in eliminating malaria – “I think there are two biggest challenges. Firstly, with malaria being near to elimination in China, the finance, resource, and manpower for malaria control will be decreased inevitably. However, the risk of imported malaria cases still exists and could be even higher because of the malaria situations in neighboring countries and districts, the emergence and spread of ACT-resistant malaria, and population migration. Secondly, with the changes in the environment, the population, distribution, and ecological habit of malaria vector is also changing. There is not enough attention paid to such changes that could affect malaria transmission.”

Mr. Semuel Sandy, APMEN Scholar from Indonesia explains the important role that entomologists play and how it continues to diminish in this region – “The entomologist who has a role in conducting surveys of vector-borne diseases in regions is also very minimal, especially in remote areas”

With funding support from Sumitomo Chemical, this year APMEN is able to design a scholarship program thattargets the mid-level entomologists from Asia Pacific Region that will allow them to undertake a diploma course in parasitology & entomology (DAP&E), a well-received and highly respected course in this region. This initiative will allow them to enter formal accredited education aiming for medium and long-term capacity building of entomologists. In April 2019, APMEN invited applications to all of its country partners and the partner institution. A competitive, merit-based, and transparent selection process chose 3 students from Indonesia, Rahmad Isa, Semuel Sandy, Ardani Akhirudin, and 1 from the People Republic of China, Sun Dingwei to receive APMEN Scholarship to attend 2019 DAP&E course.

Our scholars will undertake a 5-months diploma course that runs from July to December 2019 at IMR campus in Kuala Lumpur at the Institute of Medical Research (IMR), Ministry of Health Malaysia. This is the 1st month of their DAP&E journey and our Scholars are very excited about the journey they are about to embark. Mr. Rahmad Isa, from Indonesia, shares his excitement – “Actually it is the first time for me to take a course or education program out of my country. Dedication of DAP&E lecturers team and service of the crew are the most memorable things for me. Since the first day we arrived in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, all kind of arrangements are handled by course crew. Then in the classroom and laboratories, and lectures, the team are very dedicated to giving us a comprehensive understanding of the topics.”

Rahmad very nicely pointed out the important aspect of our continued efforts to invest human resources in entomology and vector control and where our focus should be – “nowadays we need to involve and synergize as many potential stakeholders as possible (governments, civil society, university, private sector, NGO, etc.) so we can accelerate achieving malaria elimination especially in aspect of vector control management. Our focus should be directed to strengthen the human resources in vector control management. There are gaps in the quality and quantity of vector control human resources entomologists in both rural and urban areas. Actually, malaria problems occur mostly in rural areas that have a problem with a lack of entomologists. So the improvement of human resources should be our priority.

The goal is within our grasp. It’s high time to not to reduce the intensity of elimination efforts, but to sustain these efforts and with the help from professionals like Dani, Sandy, Rahmad and Sun malaria elimination goals are more feasible than ever before. For more information about DAP&E course, please visit  https://www.imr.gov.my/index.php/en/training/dape. If you’d like to know more about APMEN VCWG initiatives helping Asia Pacific NMCPs, please contact Dr. Leo Braack, Senior Vector Control Specialist, Malaria Consortium at l.braack@malariaconsortium.org. or Dr. Htin Kyaw Th at h.thu@malariaconsortium.org.

Malaria Consortium, as the coordination body of APMEN VCWG, provides technical and programmatic leadership and coordination of the working group. The working group has two dedicated staff members Dr. Leo Braack, as technical lead and Dr. Htin Kyaw Thu, as program lead, to implement working group’s activities, close consultation with network members and the working group’s agenda-setting, coordination, and network and partnership building.