Cambodia, Thailand Join Forces to Strengthen Public Health Preparedness
Sakeao – The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the transboundary nature of communicable diseases, with frontline border officials and disease surveillance structures playing a critical role in preventing and responding to the outbreak.
Recognizing the importance of collaboration in addressing future public health threats along its shared 817-kilometre border, the Governments of Cambodia and Thailand came together for two workshops – aiming to strengthen coordination in disease prevention at points of entry (PoEs).
70 officials with health, immigration, customs, labour and welfare functions gathered in Thailand’s Sakaeo province on 23 February 2023 and in Chanthaburi province on 14 December 2022, along with representatives from six partner NGOs. The workshops provided a platform to review lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, assess existing capacities, identify gaps and discuss ways forward to reinforce coordination and information-sharing.
Emphasizing that health preparedness, response and recovery must account for mobility and cross-border dynamics, the workshops led to the establishment of a Committee of Border Control (CBC) between Cambodian and Thai officials in Chanthaburi, with focal points assigned to facilitate communication. In Sakeao, participants agreed to develop a provincial-level standard operating procedure (SOP) to guide coordination.
In addition, discussions by participants will contribute toward a report summarizing knowledge gained and best practices.
“This workshop certainly increased trust and cooperation from both sides, while in the long-term, it would facilitate a faster and more convenient disease prevention mechanism,” expressed one participant from the Cambodian National Police.
The workshops follow a series of trainings implemented since 2022, which built the capacities of 40 Cambodian officials and 30 Thai officials to manage public health emergencies.
“It is critical that we view public health from the lens of mobility,” explained Géraldine Ansart, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Thailand. “This is why, as we recover from the pandemic, IOM is reinforcing its support to authorities to be better prepared for any future health emergency that travels across borders.”
“Strengthened cross-border cooperation is fundamental to combatting the pandemic, driving social and economic recovery, building resilience to future shocks and improving access to quality healthcare and coverage for migrants and communities,” echoed Kristin Parco, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Cambodia.
These activities were made possible with financial support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States.
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