Malaria and Emerging Drug Resistance in Myanmar

Malaria prevalence among internally displaced people in eastern Burma is up to 20 times higher than across the border in Thailand.

Myanmar has historically been a regional epicenter of spreading resistance to vital anti-malarial drugs, and currently records Ithe second most malaria deaths of any country in Southeast Asia. The situation is worst in the remote and underserved ethnic minority border regions, which are largely inaccessible to large-scale international efforts. These regions are populated with displaced and vulnerable communities and rife with fake anti-malaria drugs, contributing to a growing reservoir of infection and a “perfect storm” of conditions to encourage increasing resistance to key artemisinin-based drugs.

In eastern Myanmar, our partners have conducted the only peer-reviewed surveys in this inaccessible region, demonstrating that malaria accounts for nearly half of all deaths, with a disproportionate impact on children and pregnant women: Nearly 15% of children will die before their fifth birthday, more than one-quarter from malaria, and malaria is the leading cause of maternal anemia, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight.

In 2003, Community Partners International (CPI) pioneered a community-led response to controlling malaria with our local partner, the Karen Department of Health and Welfare (KDHW). Together we piloted a malaria prevention and treatment program in a handful of villages in conflict-affected eastern Myanmar.

That pilot effort had striking results, reducing malaria by as much as 80 percent in some villages. Today, our Malaria Control Program services reach more than 400,000 villagers across Myanmar. Implemented by our local partners, with training, technical and resource support from CPI, our malaria program increases access to proven preventive and curative malaria interventions, including early diagnosis, community education, treatment with gold-standard anti-malarial drugs, distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets and establishing a surveillance network for monitoring anti-malarial drug resistance. 

In the the northern and eastern regions identified as highest risk by the Global Plan for Artemisinin Resistance Containment (GPARC), CPI’s CLEAR (Community Leaders Eliminating Artemisinin Resistance) Malaria Project is supported by the Three Millennium Development Goal (3MDG) Fund. 

Community Partners also provides support and technical assistance to help local organizations address rising rates of Tuberculosis and Lymphatic Filariasis in eastern Myanmar:

With 97,000 new cases of TB detected each year, Myanmar is on the World Health Organization’s list of high-burden countries. Access to care can be extremely difficult, particularly in the rural and border regions, and villagers — many of them displaced within Myanmar — slowly suffer with the disease, unknowingly spreading it to their own children and community.

CPI has helped design and support a pioneering TB program managed by community-based health workers, offering up to 20,000 displaced villagers in eastern Myanmar unprecedented access to TB education, screening and directly-observed-therapy treatment.

While Thailand has eliminated the disfiguring mosquito-borne Lymphatic Filariasis (also known as Elephantiasis), millions of people remain at risk of infection in Myanmar. CPI’s pilot program in eastern Myanmar provides community education about prevention, transmission, and disease management, as well as screening, medication and preventive treatment to thousands of villagers.

Malaria Epidemic Averted

CLEAR Malaria Project-Myanmar