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The Journey to Eliminating Malaria in Myanmar

Ma Zar Zar Mon knows all too well how harrowing malaria can be. In one year alone, she had it five times. “Malaria attacked all my family members including my mother, father, brothers and nephews, and me. It was a hard time for us,” the now 32-year-old said. Ma Zar Zar Mon decided 8 years ago to join efforts to help rid her village of the disease so that she wouldn’t see others suffer the same way her family had.

With support from the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative, Defeat Malaria has been assisting the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) under Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports to reduce the malaria burden in target areas and contribute to the long-term national goal of eliminating malaria in the country by 2030. To achieve this goal, Jhpiego, as a partner in the Defeat Malaria consortium, developed a capacity-building strategy for training master mentors and general trainers, starting in 2017.

Malaria health workers learned how to deliver evidence-based care by improving their knowledge and skills in epidemiology, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, behavior change communication, supportive supervision, logistic management, and recording and reporting. The strategy also covered the review and revision of the national-level malaria curriculum to reflect global standards, provision of post-training follow-up, and supportive supervision and mentorship. This approach helped ensure that health workers at all levels of the system would have up-to-date knowledge and skills in their workplace after the training and that they would maintain their skills over time.

Ma Zar Zar Mon, ICMV from Me-Wa-Khi village, Minletpan Rural Health Center, Myawaddy Township Photo by Ni Ni Aye

Ma Zar Zar Mon decided to join the malaria control program when the government announced that it was looking for a volunteer from her village of Me-Wa-Khi in Myawaddy Township, Kayin State. “I wanted to help prevent my family and my fellow villagers from getting infected with malaria,” she said.

Later on, I decided to join the malaria control program when the government announced that it was looking for a volunteer in our village. I wanted to help prevent my family and my fellow villagers from getting infected with malaria.”

Ma Zar Zar Mon
Integrated Community Malaria Volunteer
Me-Wa-Khi village, Myawaddy Township

As of December 2019, the NMCP had trained 9,440 Village Malaria Workers (VMWs) across the country to deliver community-based malaria prevention and case management services including health education. Thanks to the hard work of the NMCP and the VMWs, the country’s malaria mortality and morbidity reduced dramatically by up to 95% and 85%, respectively, from 2012 to 2018, with the noteworthy contributions of VMWs in case management of malaria in malaria high-risk areas. With the decreased burden of malaria in the townships, the NMCP expanded the role of VMWs to include referrals for tuberculosis (TB), HIV, leprosy, filariasis and dengue so they became Integrated Community Malaria Volunteers (ICMVs).

Jhpiego has supported the NMCP in the ICMV trainings along with the previously developed master mentors and general trainers. From August 2018 to September 2020, a total of 2,081 VMWs from the Defeat Malaria project successfully transitioned to become ICMVs. Jhpiego also conducted more than 30 trainings and workshops to produce general trainers with updated technical knowledge on malaria prevention and control. These general trainers are then able to conduct cascade trainings effectively and efficiently, particularly for ICMVs like Ma Zar Zar Mon.

As an ICMV, Ma Zar Zar Mon conducts malaria tests, collects data, prepares reports and transfers patients to hospitals or clinics when necessary. “There are no more positive cases now and I will try to keep malaria out of my village. This achievement could not happen without help from the head of [the] village, doctors and other team members who are supporting malaria prevention activities such as mosquito net distribution,” Ma Zar Zar Mon shared.

It’s been 2 years since our village has been free from malaria with no deaths due to malaria. But there are malaria cases in nearby villages. And I believe that we will achieve the goal of malaria elimination.”

Ma Zar Zar Mon
Integrated Community Malaria Volunteer
Me-Wa-Khi village, Myawaddy Township

ICMVs like Ma Zar Zar Mon play an important role in controlling malaria in Myanmar. Defeat Malaria is supporting the ICMVs under the leadership of the NMCP to eliminate malaria in all families, in all villages, in all townships in Myanmar.

Jhpiego believes that when women are healthy, families and communities are strong. We won’t rest until all women and their families—no matter where they live—can access the health care they need to pursue happy and productive lives.

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