Cross-border mobile and migrant populations are one of the key target groups that need to be specifically addressed when it comes to malaria elimination. Malaria Consortium Asia is using experience gained through behaviour change communications initiatives, part of efforts to eliminate artemisinin resistance along the Thai-Cambodia borders in the area, to help ensure effective malaria control across other regional borders.
Migrant workers and cross-border mobile populations face particular challenges in accessing prevention and treatment services for malaria, placing them at high risk from malaria and other infectious diseases. While migrant workers are crossing borders between all countries in the region, the Thai border with Myanmar is of particular concern in light of the emergence of resistance to artemisinin – a highly effective and fast acting malaria drug.
Artemisinin resistance was initially confirmed on the Thai-Cambodia border and more recently along the Thai-Myanmar border. If resistance spreads beyond Myanmar to India and Africa, the reduced efficacy of artemisinin derivatives, which are currently widely used in combination therapies to treat malaria, would be a significant public health setback (WHO 2012).
Effective control of the disease amongst migrant populations in the region cannot be achieved solely through the provision of preventive tools such as long-lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs) and tools for treatment such as malaria tests and drugs. People need information on the need to access malaria control tools and how and why to use them effectively.
With support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Malaria Consortium Asia provides technical support to the Bureau of Vector Borne Disease (BVBD), part of the Thai Ministry of Public Health, to develop communications strategies to accompany provision of malaria control tools. In March 2012, Malaria Consortium Asia facilitated a strategy review workshop with BVBD to help develop a national Behaviour Change Communications (BCC) strategic framework and to modify BCC messages and materials based on the workshop’s recommendations.
Building on that momentum, in June, Malaria Consortium Asia organised and facilitated a BCC harmonization workshop in Thailand. The main purpose of the workshop was to develop harmonized cross-border (Thai-Cambodia and Thai-Myanmar borders) BCC strategies, activities and materials to promote and reinforce positive behaviour changes in populations in the border regions. The workshop also provided an opportunity to idenify focal points from the three countries for continued collaboration in BCC activities for malaria control in the region.
Sixty representatives from the national malaria programmes from Cambodia and Thailand, and partners including Global Fund partners, WHO Myanmar, and the Myanmar Medical Association participated in this workshop, which included a BCC market-place, presentations, interactive plenary discussions and small group workshops to facilitate information exchange on current strategies to improve BCC implementation.
A detailed report on the workshop proceedings will be made available shortly.
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