World Malaria Day 2012: Cross-border Collaboration in Southeast Asia

Today, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar coordinated the first cross-border, multi-country celebration of World Malaria Day in Southeast Asia through a series of educational events and activities. This collaboration reflects the purpose and approach of the Control and Prevention of Malaria Project (CAP-Malaria), funded by the US Agency for International Development and managed by University Research Co., LLC, which convened the activities with local health authorities. CAP-Malaria facilitates sharing of experience and best practices among malaria staff in Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand, which have a high rate of malaria infections in their border regions.

The events, meant to inform and engage local communities, will feature parades and celebrations, malaria education booths, free malaria screening, and distribution of bed nets and insect repellent. Throughout the month of April, project staff will conduct mass screenings in targeted villages that have a high caseload of malaria.

In all three countries, staff from CAP-Malaria and national malaria control programs will distribute educational materials, posters, and T-shirts, promoting health messages about malaria tailored for the local language and cultural context.  The messages include:

  • Sleep under a long-lasting insecticide-treated bed net (LLIN) regularly. 
    Many people move to the border regions of Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand for work. Often these workers originate in areas where malaria is not common, so they lack knowledge about malaria and immunity from previous exposure to the disease. Whether working in agriculture, forestry, or mining, their employment takes them to forest fringes or newly-deforested areas with many mosquitoes. Insecticide-treated nets kill mosquitoes on contact and prevent them from biting people who sleep under them. CAP-Malaria supports loaning schemes to increase availability of these nets to mobile workers. Through the schemes, farm owners provide bed nets to their temporary workers for the duration of their employment.
  • If you suspect you have malaria, go see a public health provider or village malaria worker immediately. 
    Early detection is critical for reducing the intensity and length of the illness. While traveling, people may be reluctant to seek services or not know where to go. CAP-Malaria is setting up border malaria posts with malaria information in multiple languages and bilingual malaria hotlines to help migrants get diagnosis and treatment quickly.
  • Take the complete dose of anti-malaria drugs to cure your malaria.
    Many people stop taking malaria medicines when their symptoms go away. However, the parasites that cause malaria may still remain in the body, only to resurface and cause illness again. CAP-Malaria is working to ensure that health providers at all levels provide counseling on the importance of treatment adherence.
  • Counterfeit drugs are harmful for health and can be fatal.
    Counterfeit drugs often contain a low amount of medication that not only fails to cure the illness, but also contributes to resistance. CAP-Malaria is working with partners to reduce the availability of counterfeit drugs and to encourage people to obtain antimalarial drugs only from a trusted source.

Why Collaborate Across Borders?

 Addressing malaria among migrant workers and other mobile populations in border areas requires a shared approach that ensures the availability of bed nets and malaria information, screening and diagnosis from a provider in the appropriate language, the possibility of treatment that continues despite the patient's location, and follow-up in for cases where the treatment does not successfully cure the patient of malaria. 

Collaboration across borders also helps the region respond to and contain the emerging threat of drug resistance by effectively identifying and treating drug-resistant cases before they can spread further.

This image from a job aid helps promote bed net use among migrant workers in Cambodia.
This image from a job aid helps promote bed net use among migrant workers in Cambodia.
Date 
April 25, 2012
Authors 
Aida Olkkonen, Associate Director, PST and Sarah Whitmarsh, Communications Specialist
Regions/ Countries