Myanmar faces ongoing challenges in biosecurity

Myanmar faces ongoing challenges in biosecurity.
Myanmar's ratification of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) and Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) has helped it improve politically and socially, Kyaw San Wai, a senior analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said recently.

The resolutions, passed in Dec. 2014 and July 2015, respectively, show Myanmar’s commitment to moving away from creating, storing and using biological agents and weapons. This step forward in public policy improves Myanmar’s biosecurity: agents and toxins that are not present cannot be stolen, transported, developed or weaponized, Wai said in a Center for Strategic and International Studies publication. 

The high infectious disease rate in the Southeast Asian nation makes the BTWC and CWC ratifications more significant, as they show recognition of Myanmar's condition, in addition to a willingness to protect itself and the region from additional biological damage, Wai said. 

Myanmar’s prevalence of communicable disease -- one of the highest in Asia -- results from the burden of malaria, with an estimated 680,000 to 1.9 million cases in 2013, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Add to this statistic the effect and presence of HIV, tuberculosis and drug-resistant strains of malaria, and Myanmar, from a public health standpoint, is a weakened and susceptible region. 

Problems remain for Myanmar, however, when the underfunded and understaffed public health system is closely scrutinized.

Wai noted that many in Myanmar are without access to regular care and care that is received is lacking in skill and timeliness.

The state of Myanmar’s health system leaves it poorly positioned to respond to a public health crisis, such as that posed by a bio-terror attack. This susceptibility can be improved with additional funding and resources for the public health sector, Wai said, but until this happens, implemented security measures within the BTWC and CWC must suffice. 

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