Early August saw the start of the first nationwide malaria survey of its kind in Myanmar, where the spread of drug resistance to antimalarial drugs is a growing obstacle to the elimination of the disease. The Malaria Indicator Survey (MIS) will provide data on the overall malaria burden and measure coverage of malaria control interventions throughout the country, allowing prioritisation of services to areas where they are needed and informing future strategic planning.
The survey, which will be led by the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) in partnership with Malaria Consortium and with funding support from the President’s Malaria Initiative, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Three Millennium Development Goal Fund (3MDG), will seek to fill gaps in current malaria data in the country.
The opening ceremony was led by Dr Aye Mon Mon Kyaw, Assistant Director of the Department of Public Health (Yangon Region). In her speech, she highlighted the fact that 60 percent of Myanmar’s population live in endemic regions, with many working in areas that are particularly vulnerable – such as forests, gold mines and rubber farms. She mentioned that the Department of Public Health is working to strengthen care for malaria as well as carrying out testing in migrant areas, distributions of nets and training of village malaria workers to act as points of contact for their communities.
In attendance were also several key stakeholders, such as Dr Myo Min, Director of the Myanmar Medical Association (MMA), and Dr Kay Thwe Han, Deputy Director and Head of the Parasitology Research Division, Department of Medical Research (DMR). MMA is providing the survey enumerators, NMCP are providing doctors who will test households for malaria and draw blood spots, and DMR is leading the training on drawing blood effectively.
Following the ceremony, the MIS kicked off with a one-week interactive training course involving more than 130 field workers and stakeholders – consisting of malaria testers, interviewers, supervisors, team leaders and representatives from partners. Training began with an overview of the survey led by Dr Ei Ei Khin, (MIS Survey consultant) and introductions. Subsequent sessions included an overview of protocols, roles, responsibilities, safety, ethics and a guide to good practice when in the field.
Later in the week, groups were split up according to their roles and the sessions became more detailed – focusing on subjects from blood-taking protocols to questionnaire practice. Finally, following the completion of the training, field workers were deployed across the country to collect data for the nationwide survey. This work will be completed by mid-October, with a final report expected by early 2016.
All participants completed the training and were provided certificates by Dr Aung Thi, NMCP Programme Manager and co-investigator of the MIS who reinforced the importance of the MIS as the first nation-wide malaria survey that will help shed light on the true malaria burden in the country.