The UKHSA’s IHR Strengthening Project (IHR-SP), which is funded by UK aid from DHSC, has expanded its regional ways of working to include a new technical team based in Southeast Asia. The IHR-SP Lead for the Southeast Asia Region, Dr Ahmed Razavi, is based in Jakarta alongside the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat and the UK Mission to ASEAN. The SEA team will support regional priorities agreed through the ASEAN Health Cluster on Responding to All Hazards and Emerging Threats, which includes providing input on the establishment of the ASEAN Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases (ACPHEED).
The Southeast Asia team also has a presence in Bangkok, where a number of other international organisations have their regional headquarters. In September 2023, the Southeast Asia team and Head of IHR-SP, Dr Anne Wilson, gathered in Bangkok to meet with regional stakeholders and further scope prospective workstreams.
One such meeting was with environmental public health teams at the regional UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) Office. The meeting explored how IHR-SP and UNEP could collaborate to give the environmental sector more equitable representation in One Health activities and dialogues in the region. The meeting also explored how IHR-SP and UNEP could support work to better implement environmental public health practise in partner countries. The teams discussed how better evidencing the potential public health benefits of good environmental management could be of mutual benefit to both sectors. Accordingly, UNEP suggested that the development of practical case studies to show demonstratable impacts of interventions would be of great value.
UKHSA’s IHR-SP Southeast Asia team meeting with UNEP regional environmental public health teams in Bangkok
The IHR-SP also met with regional representatives from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), who have developed a Field Training Program for Wildlife, Ecosystems, Biodiversity & Environment Professionals (FTP WEBE). Other non-human Field Epidemiology Training Programs (FETP) have traditionally focused on veterinary services, but this program looks to engage professionals working in the wildlife and environment sector. The IHR-SP has previously delivered a FETP module focused on environmental health in Zambia and is currently looking for opportunities to continue this work in Southeast Asia. Working alongside FAO colleagues could ensure better reach for both the FTP WEBE and the IHR Environmental Health module.
Following this latest visit to the region, the Head of the IHR Strengthening Project, Dr Anne Wilson, said:
“It is fantastic that the IHR Strengthening Project (IHR-SP) has expanded its regional ways of working to Southeast Asia and that the team are now in post, commencing activities in the region.
“I am especially pleased to see how well our team has been received by ASEAN public health partners. Meetings with partners such as UNEP and FAO are an excellent chance to share ideas and identify opportunities to collaborate technically in the region, which underpins all the work we do across the IHR-SP. I’d like to thank our ASEAN and international partners for their positive engagement so far, and I look forward to working alongside regional public health networks going forward.”