Community Partners International (CPI)’s story begins in the war zones of eastern Myanmar (Burma) in the late 1990s. Nearly half a century of civil war had created a health crisis. In 2000, the World Health Organization ranked Myanmar second worst of all member states for overall health system performance. In 2002, research supported by CPI indicated that nearly three out of 10 children in eastern Myanmar did not live to see their fifth birthday.
CPI’s founders understood that the key to improving health services for these conflict-affected and hard-to-reach communities was to support community-led and community-based local organizations as key service providers. CPI forged long-term partnerships with these organizations and supported them in obtaining the resources, capacity, and information necessary to meet their communities’ essential health and humanitarian needs.
In these early years, the care model focused on mobile services. CPI helped local partners address the most pressing health issues facing their communities including maternal, newborn, and child health, malaria, management of traumatic injuries caused by landmines and gunshots, tuberculosis, and lymphatic filariasis. CPI helped them conduct research, collect data and strengthen health information systems to support planning, advocacy, and fundraising.
From these origins in eastern Myanmar, CPI expanded to support ethnic minority populations in Myanmar’s northern and western border regions. In 2009, CPI opened its first Myanmar-based office in Yangon to coordinate support to communities in central Myanmar. During the same year, annual direct and indirect population coverage of services supported by CPI exceeded one million people for the first time.
2010 - 2019: Expansion in Myanmar and Bangladesh
In 2010, Myanmar held its first general election in 20 years. The elections ushered in a quasi-civilian government and paved the way for limited reform. CPI opened field offices in southeastern, northern, and central Myanmar to more closely support community partners in those areas.
CPI began facilitating dialogue and cooperation between community partners in border regions of Myanmar and the Myanmar Ministry of Health and Sports (MoHS) around shared interests in health care and reform. Discussions focused on health system decentralization and convergence to bring parallel health systems closer together, focusing on equity and inclusion.
CPI also participated in new and innovative strategic initiatives to prevent, control, and eliminate artemisinin-resistant malaria in eastern and northern Myanmar. These initiatives provided a framework for early cooperation between community partners and the Myanmar MoHS, including medicine provision, joint training, and standardized diagnostic and treatment protocols. CPI supported community partners to develop community-based and mobile malaria screening services to reach remote communities.
Democratic elections in Myanmar in 2015 ushered in a new government and further opened up opportunities for cooperation and convergence in health. In 2016, CPI facilitated community partners’ involvement in the development of the National Health Plan (2017-2021) and advocated for their participation as key health providers in extending a basic essential package of health services to all by 2020, a cornerstone of Myanmar’s goal to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.
CPI also joined a multi-year flagship project supporting health system strengthening and convergence through maternal, newborn, and child health services delivered cooperatively by community partners and the Myanmar MoHS in southeastern Myanmar.
In 2017, violence and persecution forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee Myanmar’s Rakhine State and seek shelter as refugees in neighboring Bangladesh. CPI mobilized to support urgent humanitarian assistance in the first weeks and months of the crisis and then transitioned to longer-term support for health, clean energy, safe water, sanitation, and hygiene.
Having established operations in Bangladesh, CPI expanded support to vulnerable Bangladeshi communities. CPI’s support for Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi communities continues today.
In 2017, CPI joined a flagship four-year initiative in areas of central, eastern, and northern Myanmar with a high HIV burden to increase the number of people from key populations (people who inject drugs (PWID), men who have sex with men (MSM), female sex workers (FSW) and transgender persons) getting tested for HIV, and to accelerate treatment uptake and retention. The project increased PWID’s access to harm reduction services, methadone maintenance treatment (MMT), and community-based care, and scaled up innovative HIV prevention service delivery for key populations including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
In 2021, CPI was selected to lead a five-year successor project focused on ensuring that 95 percent of people living with HIV in Myanmar are aware of their status, on antiretroviral treatment, and virally suppressed. The project also aims to reach every person with TB, curing those needing treatment, and preventing new infections.
CPI expanded its strategic focus in 2018 to improve the health status of communities through sustainable investment in social determinants of health such as good health practices, nutrition access and quality, economic stability, livelihoods, vocational training, women and youth development, education access and quality, and the physical environment.
2020 - Present: COVID-19, the Coup in Myanmar and Beyond
With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, CPI supported partners in Myanmar to launch a community-based response. The organization delivered essential medical supplies and emergency funds to community clinics across Myanmar, supported coordination between the Myanmar MoHS and community partners, provided preparedness and response training, and helped partners launch risk communication, education, and disease surveillance initiatives.
In 2021, when successive waves of COVID-19 struck South and Southeast Asia with devastating effects, CPI mobilized to bring lifesaving oxygen and treatment to people in need in Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. CPI distributed more than 1,700 oxygen concentrators and supported the construction of six oxygen plants. During 2021, CPI and its community partners reached more than one million people with COVID-19 prevention and care services.
In February 2021, a military coup plunged Myanmar into crisis. Conflict has displaced more than one million people, and economic turmoil has pushed millions more into poverty. In response, CPI is adapting activities and approaches to meet immediate humanitarian needs and sustain essential services.
In 2022, CPI was selected to lead a five-year initiative to empower citizens and communities in Myanmar to develop and strengthen collaboration between civil society, ethnic service providers, and local administration/community-established governance structures. The project aims to increase local agency, encourage social cohesion, and meet community needs.
Today, CPI continues to apply the founding principles of community partnership and local empowerment in all aspects of its work.
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