Thailand, who hosted the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network community engagement workshop, shared with participants the special challenges their health programs face in developing, implementing and monitoring of behavior change communication strategy for migrants, mobile populations, refugees in camps and people spending nights in the forest.Â This requires creating messages on treatment strategies and appropriate use of LLINs as well as designing a relevant migrant household health survey.
The challenges were well described in a recent publication –
Most highly mobile migrants along the Thai-Cambodia border are not accessing health messages or health treatment in Thailand, increasing their risk of malaria and facilitating the spread of potentially resistant Plasmodium falciparum as they return to Cambodia to seek treatment. Reaching out to highly mobile migrants with health messaging they can understand and malaria diagnosis and treatment services they can access is imperative in the effort to contain the spread of artemisinin-resistant P. falciparum.
To respond to these needs, the staff of the Bureau of Vector Borne Disease, Thailand have developed specific BCC materials, tools and method for the target group in two languages(as seen in posters here). They have produced radio broadcast messages in migrant languages on community radio channels.Â They have also built capacity of migrant health workers and migrant health volunteers on the malaria program.
As with any vulnerable population advocacy is needed too generate support for migrant health. The Bureau of Vector Borne Disease, Thailand has organized meetings of migrant health committees and undertaken advocacy with the business owner, stakeholders and migrant health networks for malaria control and prevention. Collaboration with employers is essential to locate the migrant population.
Because of the cross-cultural nature of this work the Bureau of Vector Borne Disease is working to strengthen the capacity of health staff and health volunteers in communication skills needed for effective health education.
Malaria does not respect borders and boundaries. Thailand is offering other countries valuable lessons on first how to recognize the needs of migrant and refugee populations and secondly on how to involvement in the disease control process.