Remarks as Prepared by Dr. Mitesh Desai, Country Director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Myanmar Virtual Press Briefing

Dr. Mitesh Desai, Country Director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Myanmar

Remarks as Prepared

Virtual Press Briefing

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

For over 60 years, CDC has been a global leader in helping countries to strengthen their ability to detect and respond to disease outbreaks. US CDC opened the Myanmar office in 2015 as our newest field office. US CDC’s work to support Myanmar’s response to COVID-19 builds on long-standing health cooperation.

Since long before the COVID-19 pandemic, CDC has been working in close partnership with the Myanmar Ministry of Health & Sports on critical initiatives like controlling HIV and malaria, and training Myanmar’s own workforce of epidemiologists. This builds on the global work of CDC scientists, from the time of smallpox eradication and advances in controlling vaccine-preventable diseases like polio and measles, to treating and preventing the major infectious killers of HIV, TB, and malaria, to more recent zoonotic outbreaks like new types of influenza, Ebola, Zika, and now coronavirus. We are also proud to work with USAID and other global scientific and development partners in Myanmar.

For COVID-19, CDC has committed $1.95 million in new COVID-19 assistance for Myanmar. This new funding will further support the MOHS’ field epidemiology training program and COVID-19 surveillance and epidemiology efforts. We are currently finalizing the details in partnership with the Ministry of Health & Sports.

CDC has been working in close collaboration with the MOHS’ key units responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Central Epidemiology Unit and the National Health Laboratory to provide technical assistance. US CDC technical assistance on COVID-19 includes in-person consultations with regional CDC experts who visited Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw, and Mandalay in February. CDC offices in Yangon and Bangkok have continued to provide direct virtual technical assistance to MOHS throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

US CDC has also been working through other multilateral technical and development partners, and contributing to the WHO-coordinated, MOHS-led COVID-19 response to improve testing and surveillance, clinical management of COVID-19, and preventing the spread of infection.

Additionally, CDC is launching several new regional capacity-building programs managed out of the Southeast Asia Regional office, which will aim to help strengthen Myanmar’s laboratory systems in biosafety and quality management, emergency preparedness, response and management capacity, port of entry screening for mobile populations, such as migrant workers, and One Health activities, which aim to help prevent and detect future zoonotic outbreaks.

This work builds on our prior successful cooperation, including CDC’s partnership with MOHS to launch the first ever Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) Intermediate course in Myanmar to offer specialized epidemiology training for health professionals in 2018. This program graduated 15 “disease detectives” in 2019, who are now contributing in meaningful and substantial ways to Myanmar’s COVID-19 response. I was indeed very heartened to hear in the speech from His Excellency the Union Minister Dr. Myint Htwe, when he described the FETP graduation as “one of the happiest days of [his] life”.

Let me also just add that beyond COVID-19, US CDC plans to broaden and deepen our partnership with the Myanmar MOHS in the coming months, first, by adding a resident advisor under the President’s Malaria Initiative, secondly, thru long term technical advisory support to Myanmar’s Expanded Program on Immunizations in its impressive and ambitious vaccine-preventable disease control agenda, and thirdly, continuing to provide strategic advice on developing Myanmar’s own national public health institute, or Myanmar-CDC.

Let me end by reiterating my personal and US CDC’s commitment to providing long-term high-impact assistance that will enhance Myanmar’s health security, and to strengthening the health dimension of the strategic partnership between our two countries.

Thank you.

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