Bordering China, India, Thailand, Bangladesh and Laos - countries that combined constitute 40 per cent of the world’s population - Myanmar’s location makes the country a hub for trade and travel but increases its vulnerability to cross-border spread of emerging infectious diseases in both humans and animals. While Myanmar is experiencing strong economic growth, rapid social change, conflict and frequently occurring natural disasters create additional challenges for disease control.
The Government of Myanmar is committed to improving health system resilience and health security. In 2017 Myanmar became the third country in Southeast Asia to undertake a Joint External Evaluation to assess their health security capacity. This identified gaps in a number of areas, including in emergency response capacity - critical in the event of a disease outbreak.
Australian health investments in Myanmar draw on the Centre for Health Security’s 2018 Scoping Mission recommendations and Government of Myanmar policies in taking a systems strengthening approach. Existing investments include building capacity in animal disease diagnostics through the Australian Animal Health Laboratory and in drug and medical test regulation through Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration. Further planned support will likely include human laboratory strengthening, incident management and workforce development.
In March 2019, DFAT opened a call for proposals under the Health Security Initiative for country-specific and multi-country activities to strengthen infectious disease detection, prevention and response in the Indo-Pacific region. Two streams of funding have been established:
- The Pacific Infectious Disease Prevention (PIDP) program - $25 million over 2019-2022.
- The ASEAN-Pacific Infectious Disease Detection and Response (APIDDaR) program - $28 million over 2019-2022.
As at November 2019, the Centre for Health Security is undertaking a collaborative design process with a group of preferred partner organisations, who were selected on the basis of demonstrated organisational capacity and activity concepts.
The following programs supported under the Health Security Initiative include Myanmar as one of the target countries:
Country & Regional
In partnership with the Australian National University (ANU), the Fellowships program aims to build high-level skills and expertise in epidemiology. Fellows are supporting the work of the Pasteur Institute in Cambodia, the National Center for Laboratory and Epidemiology in Laos and other regional institution.
A high-level initiative for collective action to eliminate malaria across Asia and the Pacific by 2030. The APLMA/APMEN Secretariat delivers its objectives through advocacy and outreach; fostering and strengthening partnerships and innovation; and providing policy guidance.
CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) has longstanding experience and expertise in detecting animal health diseases in the Indo-Pacific. This program enables AAHL to share expertise and resources through twinning arrangements with laboratories in Indonesia and Myanmar, and through regional capacity building activities.
Supporting national medicines regulatory authorities to work together effectively improves the impact and safety of medical products through more efficient regulation. To this end, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration is working with key Indo-Pacific counterpart authorities to improve regulatory systems and processes, including through sharing regulatory information.