My name is Bounyang and I am the Laos Malaria Programme Manager at Health Poverty Action.

I have a health background and have worked with community health development programmes for over 10 years. I joined Health Poverty Action in 2016 and it has been a privilege working with the team.

In this newsletter, you will meet some of my colleagues who are working tirelessly to improve the quality and access to healthcare in southern Laos. I hope that together we will contribute to the elimination of malaria across the country.

 

Bounyang Latsamy, Laos Malaria Programme Manager

Douangpi (far right) stands with Health Poverty Action staff and local people infront of a malaria awareness sign in rural Laos

Laos is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, with almost a quarter of people living under the poverty line. In the remote areas of southern Laos where we work, many people have to travel long distances to find work. These mobile populations often move through areas with high malaria prevalence, and can spread malaria parasites to new areas.

Malaria is a serious problem across southern Laos, accounting for 95% of reported cases in the country. It can be life-threatening if left untreated. Preventative measures, rapid diagnosis and targeted treatment are essential in tackling the disease, however, health facilities are frequently understaffed and inaccessible to many rural communities. Without much-needed funding and improvement within the healthcare system, effective diagnosis and treatment does not always reach these key groups. With support from The Global Fund, Health Poverty Action are operating at both a national and local level to ensure systemic change.

Goats graze by the side of the road in a village in rural Laos. Many people here rely on agriculture and farming.

We are working closely with local health facilities and volunteers to conduct testing and provide treatment for malaria. We have established mobile malaria clinics in 48 villages in the border regions of Champasak Province, the first of their kind in the country. These small clinics send out teams to provide diagnosis and treatment services to remote villages and mobile populations. This eliminates the need for trips to urban hospitals, which often involve long and expensive journeys.

Douangpi works at the Khamchalearn village malaria clinic in Champasak Province. He works with some of the most marginalised and high-risk populations, including ethnic minority groups, mobile and migrant workers and forest settlers who are not always aware of the risks associated with living in the forests.

“Malaria clinics make my job more professional and official, and people are more likely to trust me and believe that the services we provide to treat malaria are reliable and effective.”

 

Douangpi (far right) sits inside the malaria clinic building in Khamchalearn village, Champasak Province, with fellow Health Poverty Action staff

Traditionally these remote communities have been hesitant to trust outsiders but, slowly, Douangpi and his colleagues are earning their trust. Since Health Poverty Action introduced the clinics, more and more members of the community are seeking the treatment they need.

“The situation is improving and it is not as difficult as it was before to build strong relationships with forest settlers and mobile migrant workers. This is because these groups are now receiving more information about malaria and they are becoming increasingly aware of their health and wellbeing and the issue that malaria presents…They trust me because I have worked with them for so long. These relationships are important to maintain so that they feel comfortable seeking my help.”

“The number of malaria cases in southern Laos is still high because people continue to access the forest areas. They do this because the forest provides them with livelihoods. It is a large contributing factor to the number of malaria cases happening.”

 

A family sits beneath a malaria net in their home in rural Laos

One of the biggest difficulties in the struggle against malaria is that the parasites are becoming increasingly resistant to medicine, which is threatening to reverse recent successes. There is also a high-level of cross border movement, with people from Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and China crossing into Laos regularly in search of work. Movement of these groups between malaria endemic areas is a major contributor to the spread of treatment resistant strains of malaria.

Language barriers are also an issue. Migrant workers often feel the need to travel back to their home country to seek treatment when they fall ill. Health Poverty Action has worked locally to implement simple solutions such as strategically located signboards that educate about the spread of malaria, as well as the early warning signs, in four languages.

A family sit in their home and grocery store business in rural Laos

 

“The malaria clinics work very well because people that are not from Laos will also visit them because they recognise the signboards which are written in different languages. They know that these facilities have been set up to treat malaria.”

Together we are ensuring that long-term, sustainable solutions are put in place by providing local health workers with the skills and equipment needed to test and treat malaria. Our work with teachers, administrators and the Lao Women’s Union has enabled us to improve malaria outreach, and the overall standard of health in Laos. Local communities are increasingly aware of the risks of malaria, and Health Poverty Action’s work across 15 districts in southern Laos has contributed to an 87% decrease in malaria cases since 2000.

With your ongoing support, we will continue to work alongside the Laos government in their goal of eradicating malaria in the country by 2030.

The Global Movement for Health

Working together for better health

Earlier this year, we announced our partnership with international development charity, Find Your Feet.

As the funding landscape changes, smaller NGOs are finding it necessary to explore new ways of working in order to secure the long-term sustainability of their work. By partnering with us, Find Your Feet is ensuring their work will continue to be as strong as ever in the future as a part of Health Poverty Action.

We have always worked on the various social issues that impact on health, from helping communities grow the nutritious foods they need to keep their families healthy, to supporting girls through school to make sure they get a good education. The factors that impact on health are broad and complex, so our work fits well with the food and livelihoods work Find Your Feet do.
By sharing our expertise we will be able to work together to create stronger, more holistic health and livelihoods projects that will directly benefit the communities we work with.

We are excited to share the story of Phuljens and Rachana, who have been working alongside Find Your Feet to demand their rights, and improve their nutrition.

Food and nutrition in India

Phuljens and Rachana live with their three children and their niece in an isolated village in rural India. The village is extremely poor and has always lacked basic facilities such as toilets and electricity. The family depend entirely on the land for survival.

The couple work tirelessly to provide enough food for their children but they simply don’t have the means to give them a healthy balanced diet. This slows the children’s development and makes it harder for them to do well at school.

Thanks to training provided by Find Your Feet, Phuljens has become the leader of a Village Development Committee – a group of local people who fight for positive change in the community. Find Your Feet helped the group to take their issues to local government and demand change.

Since forming, the group has made several life-changing differences in their community, including securing free school meals. Now the local government employs Rachana and other women in the village to cook school lunches for all the children in the village.

This not only means that the children receive a healthy, balanced meal every day, but it also increases school attendance and concentration in lessons.

Phuljens also has a new outlook on life.

“I feel proud of what our Village Development Committee is doing. At first I felt very shy to talk about our issues. I had never done anything like this before. Now I’ve had training and I feel confident to talk to anyone – the project workers, the council, government workers…”

 

The key to success

The key to our success as an organisation is the importance we place on working in partnership – from working with communities to partnering with local and national organisations.

By working with Find Your Feet we are strengthening one another financially by sharing management and governance structures to increase efficiency. This cost sharing technique allows us to get even better value out of the generous donations we receive from our supporters like you.

Most importantly, our partnership will strengthen the work we do with families like Phuljens and Rachana, helping us get ever closer to securing health for all in a just world.

Events

As One

The ‘As One’ campaign has been designed by healthcare professionals here in the UK to mobilise support for fellow health workers in resource poor countries.

It is a global movement of shared values and solidarity, led by healthcare professionals who are passionate about working alongside their colleagues worldwide.

After a successful pilot earlier in the year, we are relaunching the campaign this November. The money raised will help to provide training and resources for healthcare professionals around the world.

Please share the campaign with health professionals, or show your solidarity with a donation at:

healthpovertyaction.org.uk/asone

To find out more email:
j.doyle@healthpovertyaction.org

 

Calling all parents!

Our two school initiatives, Health Heroes and School Stomp are looking for young, enthusiastic fundraisers across the UK! Simply introduce us to your kid’s school and we will do the rest.

Pupils learn about health rights and see the positive effects of their actions, whilst taking part in a fun activity for the whole school! Suitable for both Primary and Secondary Schools. Visit our school pages to find out more or contact Verity at:
v.crawford@healthpovertyaction.org

Brooklands Primary School

 

 

Actions

Let’s demand healthy trade

Trade deals have a huge impact on public health, both here in the UK and in the global south. That’s because trade deals are no longer just about tariffs. Today’s ‘trade’ deals cover almost all aspects of our lives: the NHS, the food we eat, the makeup we wear, and the medicines we need.

As we leave the EU, the UK will be negotiating its own trade deals for the first time in 40 years. But, as things stand, there is no transparency, accountability or democratic oversight for how these deals are negotiated and signed off.

This means that civil society, MPs and devolved administrations don’t have a say. If we are going to ensure that trade deals work to promote public health this must change.

With a potential trade deal between the UK and US in the pipeline, there are serious concerns about how these future deals could affect public health. Any deal with the US will almost certainly open up the NHS to US companies, and lock-in existing levels of privatisation. It will likely give more power to pharmaceutical companies, allowing them to extend patents almost indefinitely. This will increase costs to the NHS and prevent patients getting the medicines they need.

We are currently working with a range of organisations to develop specific policies that could ensure that trade deals promote public health, both here in the UK and around the world. But if this is going to get any traction, we need to open up the process first.

That’s why we’re working with the Trade Justice Movement to demand greater transparency and democracy in trade deals. We’d like you to write to your MP to ask them to support a motion calling on the government to ensure that negotiations are transparent and parliament and the public are involved in the process, from setting the mandate through to signing off the deal.

Please take action on our website at:
healthpovertyaction.org/trade-democracy