Enhancing Civilian-Military Cooperation to Accelerate Malaria Elimination in Southeast Asia

Our colleague Sara Canavati attended the recent meeting on civilian and military collaboration to eli8minate malaria in Southeast Asia. Herein she shares some of the highlights of the meeting. Sara is affiliated with both the Centre for Biomedical Research, Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Australia and the Department of Clinical Tropical Medicine, Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok.

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The Heads of State from ASEAN member nations stated their commitment to an “Asia Pacific free of Malaria by 2030” at the 9th East Asia Summit. This mandate for a malaria-free Asia Pacific creates an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen ties between civilian and military health systems and regional militaries.

On 26-28 June 2017, the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Science (AFRIMS) organized a meeting titled: “Enhancing Civilian-Military Cooperation to Accelerate Malaria Elimination in Southeast Asia” in Bangkok, Thailand. The meeting brought together Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Health malaria officials from Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia, and the United States.

Since malaria is a common problem in the military, and since malaria does not know borders, regional collaborations involving all affected populations are important to achieve malaria elimination. The meeting was instrumental for reviewing existing military and civilian national malaria collaborations, identifying and prioritize key areas of mutual military-civilian interest, and discussing ways in which regional militaries can assist national malaria elimination goals.

Three action points on how the civilian and military sectors can more effectively collaborate to achieve elimination in four areas of mutual interest (Case Detection and Management and Disease Prevention; Surveillance, Monitoring and Evaluation; Operational Research/Training and Advocacy) were identified and documented by meeting attendees through a breakout team format.

Advocacy for malaria elimination was the theme that military attendees found most challenging due to the hierarchical structure of the military.  Among several presentations, East Africa Malaria Task Force and Experiences from African Military Medical Departments were shared to serve as an example of military-advocacy. Financing was another key barrier identified. The chair of the regional steering committee (RSC) for the Global Fund, Prof Arjen Dondorp and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFTAM) Geneva assured their support and commitment to finance military operations for malaria elimination in South East Asia. This was a historical achievement as this will be the first time ever the GFTAM finances the military for malaria elimination.

One significant outcome of the meeting is that the military will now be represented in the RSC for the Global Fund “Regional Artemisinin-resistance Initiative 2 Elimination (RAI2E)” malaria grant.

Links to some of Sara’s recent malaria publications:

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