Despite recent progress in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam to ensure legitimate pharmaceuticals, poor quality anti-malarial and antibiotic medicines continue to be available to the general public in Asia. The greatest dangers posed by using substandard and counterfeit medicines include death, disability and a potential increase in microbial resistance. These factors compromise treatment efficacy and patient safety and place a heavy economic burden on the health care systems. Since 2011, the President’s Malaria Initiative, a partnership between USAID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has supported national programs to address drug quality in the Lower Mekong region.
Started in 2009, the Promoting the Quality of Medicines program (PQM), supported by USAID and implemented by the United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), assists countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-region—Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and the Yunnan province of China—to address these problems. The program addresses four persistent challenges:
Widespread availability of poor-quality anti-malarial drugs, particularly in border areas where drug-resistant malaria has emerged;
Inadequately trained staff in quality assurance are overextended with multiple responsibilities and are underpaid with low government salaries;
Weak and limited information-sharing, investigation and enforcement related to substandard and counterfeit medicines; and
Low level of public awareness and understanding about substandard and counterfeit medicines.
The PQM program’s approach involves working with national partners to achieve the key objectives listed below.
Building capacity of medicines regulatory authorities to:
Improve and expand drug registration and dossier evaluation;
Develop supportive technical and regulatory guidelines for pharmaceutical management systems;
Conduct Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) inspections of manufactures, which is the production measurement standard;
Leverage skills and capacity from existing and emerging regional centers; of excellence in the area.
Conduct research on medicines quality and availability to facilities and households;
Monitor medicines quality in the market through regional surveillance sites equipped with portable drug-testing facilities; and
Use and share information, through institutional and regional collaboration, for decision and policy making and enforcement action.
Strengthen quality-control labs to meet international standards through:
Training staff on procedures for collecting drug samples and analytical techniques for testing samples;
Providing lab equipment and relevant training to ensure proper use and maintenance;
Providing reference materials, reagents and other needed chemicals to conduct drug quality testing; and
Providing technical assistance toward laboratory accreditation and World Health Organization Prequalification of Laboratories which promotes global standards for quality drug control.
Raise public awareness on the importance of medicinal quality through:
Broadcasting public service announcements and videos on the dangers of substandard and counterfeit medicines;
Running messaging campaigns targeted at consumers, drug sellers and government officials on the impacts of quality of medicines; and
Promoting articles, reports and information materials on medicines quality issues and on the importance of buying medicinal drugs from approved outlets.
Noteworthy accomplishments of the PQM program are:
Closure of substandard pharmaceutical outlets, issued recalls, and confiscated and destroyed poor-quality medicines by country governments;
Increased ability of official medicines control labs to test most medicines;
Increase national capacity in GMP in regional centers as well as in quality assurance and quality control of medicines;
Increased public awareness of substandard and counterfeit medicines, and understanding of the concept of medicines quality; and
Reduced number of substandard and counterfeit medicines available on the market in the region.
PARTNERS Implementing Partner: United States Pharmacopeia Convention Cooperating Partners: National regulatory authorities and quality control laboratories in the Greater Mekong Sub-region; National Malaria Control Programs; Faculties of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Chulalongkorn University and Mahidol University
The Mekong River is the world’s most productive freshwater fishery and the second most bio-diverse river after the Amazon. This unique and flourishing ecosystem is dependent on the rich sediment and nutrients carried by the river. Two decades ago, the Mekong River ran unimpeded from the Tibetan Plateau to the Mekong Delta into the South China Sea. Today, it is poised on the brink of massive hydropower development.
Nearly 50 dams are already constructed, including seven in the Chinese headwaters, while plans for up to 100 additional dam construction projects are under way. In the Lower Mekong Basin, where economic development has been delayed by decades of conflict, this hydropower boom could potentially provide much needed revenue for people in Cambodia and Laos which are among the poorest countries in the region. If construction is pursued without careful consideration of the downstream consequences, hydropower development could destroy this exceptionally productive river and undermine food security.
Target Countries: Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
The Climate Resilient Mekong project is a three-year effort, started in November 2010, to examine the environmental impacts caused by hydropower development. The proposed dams threaten to block the natural sediment and nutrient flows necessary to maintain the wetland, delta and river habitats that support both agriculture and aquatic productivity. They also threaten to impede the regular fish migration along the river, which is essential for 67 percent of the capture fisheries. The proposed dams will cause 75 percent of the pre-dam sediments and nutrients to no longer reach the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia, which produces more fish than any lake in the world. Nor will these vital nutrients reach the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, which is Southeast Asia’s “rice bowl,” providing food and livelihoods to nearly 18 million people.
Approximately 60 million people in the Lower Mekong Basin depend on aquatic and agricultural resources sustained by the Mekong River. Dams in the upper watershed of the Srepok River capture sediments causing erosion on the downstream banks of the river.
Additionally, the adverse effects will be greatly amplified by sea level rise as a consequence of global climate change. Yet, the sediment and nutrient flows can be maintained, at least in part, by informed choices in the location, design and operation of these dams. Better informed choices will also help those countries vulnerable to the impacts of climate change maintain their ability to adapt.
USAID, through the Climate Resilient Mekong project, will help the national government agencies in the Lower Mekong region to improve planning and decision-making on hydropower development by increasing their understanding of the downstream impacts of alterations in sediment and nutrient flows. Specifically, the project will assist these agencies to advance knowledge on:
The impacts of sediment and nutrient depletion on the biological productivity of the Tonle Sap Lake; and
Options for the location, design and operation of the dams that can minimize these impacts and help sustain the future productivity of the Lower Mekong Basin.
Additionally, the project will explore government measures that allow sediments and nutrients to be flushed from the dams periodically.
Implementing Partner: Natural Heritage Institute (NHI)
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF),
- The Nature Conservancy (TNC),
- Conservation International (CI),
- Mekong River Commission (MRC),
- Lower Mekong Basin national water resources institutes,
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
- U.S. Geological Survey
Contact: Bradford Philips
U.S. Agency for International Development
Regional Development Mission for Asia
Athenee Tower, 25th Fl., 63 Wireless Road
Bangkok 10330 Thailand
The LMI English project, Professional Communication for Leaders, was designed with three key goals in mind:
1. To improve the level of proficiency in English of the mid to upper level participants who speak on or have direct impact on LMI related policies;
2. To improve the ability and capacity of the participants to present their professional issues, concerns and ideas, and discuss their respective national policies regarding the lower Mekong in regional and international forums;
3. To enhance the networking among professionals in the areas of specialization addressed in each of the seminars;
4. (a sub-goal) To share the lessons learned from this project to help strengthen the capacity to deliver quality ESP training in the region.
The English project was designed to have 4 seminars for each pillar followed up by an online distance education component after each seminar, and conclude with a symposium in Bangkok on English for Specific Purposes (ESP), led by the four English Language Fellows. To date, all four seminars in each country and three of the online-distance education sessions have been completed (the fourth online course is still in progress). Added to this project has been an Online Seminar on ESP conducted by the LMI Sr. English Language Fellow for ASEAN/LMI teachers working in ESP. Also added are talks and lectures that the Fellows have given/will give in their respective host countries on ESP. The lessons learned from this project will greatly enhance the LMI and ASEAN region in delivering quality ESP programs to professionals and strengthen the capacity for engagement among their counterpart professionals in this region and with their counterparts in the U.S. and the rest of the world.
LMI TOPICS ADDRESSED
Environment: Climate Change; River Life; Pollution; Disaster Management
Health: Pharmaceuticals: Standard vs. Sub-Standard; Transmigration in the Health Sector; Communicable and non-Communicable Diseases; Hygiene and Sanitation
Infrastructure: Flood Control; Engineering and Construction: Roads and Bridges; Information Technology and Intelligent Transport Systems
The results have been extremely positive and show that the project has succeeded beyond expectations. Surveys conducted by the English Language Fellows for each seminar reported that the vast majority of the participants felt that the seminars met the participants’ professional goals and would have a positive impact on their future work in participating in regional and international meetings, as well as helping to prepare presentations and reports for their higher level supervisors. The participants also lauded the networking, which was especially noted in the distance education portion of the project. In spite of the original debate over the length of the seminars, the majority of the participants wishes that the seminars had lasted longer, and hopes that they will have such opportunity again in the future. The LMI Fellows all agreed that the participants’ proficiency in English greatly improved and their capacity to develop and give presentations in regional meetings had also improved significantly. What has gone beyond expectation is the fact that so many of the participants have returned to their place of work and have passed on the training to colleagues because they felt strongly that others needed this training. Please see the testimonials below.
Seminar Participation – number of participants per seminar (approximately 1/3 were women)
Pillar Session 1 Session 2 Session 3 Session 4
Environment 17 22 14 14
Infrastructure 21 20 15 16
Health 17 20 16 15
Online 26 19 27 26
SAMPLE TESTIMONIALS FROM PARTICIPANTS
· After finishing this seminar, I have set up a number of goals for working at my workplace that needs to be achieved such as: (a) preparation of effective speech and conveying ideas through my presentations; (b) producing of abstracts and reports from many documents for my boss’ executive review prior to have any meeting or discussion; (c) join with my working group for exchanging ideas on improvement and development of all documents under my responsibility through regular small talks, workshops and conferences. These goals shall be commenced as soon as possible in the upcoming future.
· Invaluable time was spent for learning many skills from this wonderful seminar where all the participants paid a harmonious attention on every priceless lesson that made us gain several scientific knowledge and artistic communications. One important thing was the networking, which bridged various participants’ experience and shared opinions during activities….
· Based on the seminar’s objectives, I think I can achieve almost my own objectives, including developing my corpus of field-specific jargon, forming ideas fluently and accurately in English, using strategies to listen and read more actively and effectively, developing the professional interaction skills to communicate appropriately in all professional situation, and communicating field specific ideas to people outside the field…I will continue to learn through the practice and online LMI course further…I myself found that all the lessons and skills were introduced in the 3rd seminar are very important and related to my work. I got the methods to further improve. I wish to have a chance to join such a seminar like this in the future.
· In my opinion I improved my vocabulary, listening, pronunciation and my speaking. My strategies are to try and break away from my Asian shyness, which is not easy. I have increased my confidence and will give time to practice my English and not be lazy to read in English and listen more to English. I will keep in touch with my foreign friends to help improve my English. I will work to continue to improve my presentations.
· The networking in this seminar will certainly help me to share more ideas and be more prepared when preparing for meetings and conferences.
· I learned so much more than I thought I would learn from this seminar that will help me with my work, especially as I prepare presentations and prepare myself to attend meetings. I can now feel more confidence and will be more engaged in meetings, rather than be shy and nonconfident.
· “I would like to say deeply thanks for US Embassy for providing me the chance to attend this course…furthermore, it is very wonderful the network is created after the seminar.”
· “After finishing…I feel I have more confident to work and increase many experiences that benefit me, and the most important thing is my English skills has increased….the (homework) made me have fluently in English and working skill. In addition, I will apply the experience that I got from this seminar into my work as much as I can.”
· From the Vietnam LMI Fellow: A young female student from Hue, after receiving the syllabus which I send to all students, wrote a very long letter and regretfully declined the invitation as she felt that she could not do the work. She explained she was a newly-graduated biology major and didn’t feel ready for this experience. Duong (Public Affairs Senior Cultural Specialist) wrote her a lovely letter and I followed up. She changed her mind and decided to attend. During class, she needed a lot of support. By the time she gave her final PPT presentation, one would have thought that she had been giving them for years. This was not only a learning opportunity, but it was an opportunity for many to become the proverbial butterfly.
Budget for Each Seminar (minus cost of Fellows)
From the original $91,667 given to each post by RSP for this project, each post contributed some to support the Fellows and kept some at post for supporting the host institutions. The remaining funds they gave for the participants from their respective countries to participate in the seminars (called here the post budget). Other funds from EAP and ECA were given to support the seminars and the distance education segment of the project (called here the general budget), as well as the concluding symposium. This budget reported here will only reflect what was used to support the participant travel to the seminars to date from the post budget and from the general budget.
Cambodia’s Budget $22,072
General Budget $24,531
Cambodia total $46,603
Lao PDR Budget $10,861
General Budget $39,254
Lao PDR total $50,115
Vietnam Budget $15,526
General Budget $35,708
Vietnam total $51,234
As can be noted, Lao PDR and Vietnam kept more funds back for supporting the host institutions, so they received more of the general funds. As a result, the LMI Fellow for Infrastructure just reported that Lao PDR has excess funds and will use those to do an in-country ESP seminar (hopefully in coordination with LAO TESOL). Vietnam has expressed a desire to use its remaining funds for another LMI educational project on the environment, but not one related to this English project. The remaining LMI English project general funds ($5,522) will be used to support the concluding ESP Symposium in late August.
The ESP Symposium, which will take place August 23-24, will be funded partially by the remaining funds from the project’s budget, but mostly from the contribution of the Thai government to the project. At this point in time, the Thai government has verbally stated that they will contribute approximately $30,000 for the symposium, perhaps more if it is needed.
There are two key goals for the symposium. One goal is to share lessons learned from the highly successful LMI English project seminars in terms of preparing and delivering quality ESP training. This goal will be primarily addressed by our excellent team of LMI Fellows. Another goal is to discuss the need for good ESP for workplace English, not only for the incoming members to the labor force, but also for the current members of each country’s respective labor force. This is in anticipation of the ASEAN integration in 2015. Dr. Kay Westerfield, who is one of the leaders in TESOL for ESP, will be addressing this issue in a plenary. Also, we are asking Dr. Surin, current Secretary General of ASEAN, to deliver the opening keynote address on the need for ESP. This is a symposium, not a conference, so there will be discussion sessions after each presentation or panel for the audience to discuss the issues raised by the presenters and try to put it into their own contexts. We hope that the discussions will develop a strong network of people interested in ESP and that this network can help to build a regional strategy on teaching ESP. All sessions and discussions will be in English.
The expected audience for the symposium will be mostly from LMI countries (including Burma, which is now an observer country in the LMI), about 60 participants, plus another 60 participants from the greater ASEAN region. The LMI Fellows will be expected to be at the symposium as presenters and facilitators along their host country co-teachers. We are specifically inviting (funding) five people from each post to attend. These people should be education policy level people interested in ESP or people currently teaching in or administering ESP courses, or who are from the national TESOL organization’s ESP special interest group leadership (Cambodia, for example, has such a group in CAM TESOL).
Online Seminar for ESP Teachers in the LMI Region
Lower Mekong English Teachers Create Online Projects for Students of Professional English: On June 19th, the online seminar in English for Specific Purposes (ESP) and Project-based Learning wrapped up with teachers from Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam showcasing the 11 collaborative internet-based projects (WebQuests) that they developed for students of English for Business, IT, Health and Engineering. The 18 teachers who participated in the seminar demonstrated intense enthusiasm in their online discussions about methodological approaches, in their feedback to each other and their multiple revisions of their projects. The WebQuest projects are the final product of a four-week online seminar in ESP & Project-based learning developed and facilitated by the LMI English Project Coordinator, Senior English Language Fellow Brigitte Miller, as part of the LMI English Project mandate to improve the quality of professional English in the lower Mekong region in the pillars of Health, Infrastructure and the Environment. In addition to creating projects, the teachers met online in the State Dept Webinar once a week from May 28th to June 22nd, 2012 to discuss articles and their experiences teaching English for Specific Purposes and Project-based Learning. The impact of this course on their work, as commented by the participants in the anonymous course evaluation is the following:
· “ This online seminar helps me a lot in my teaching. It provides me lot of useful knowledge and update my teaching skills. I have been updated many teaching tools for my next teaching semester. I really like WebQuest, Rubric websites and this SurveyMonkey. I also have known more ESP teachers and learnt from their sharing experience. I can share them my teaching issues next semester when I apply what I learnt from this seminar. “
· “I will share what I learned from this course with my colleagues in my university“.
· “I have a more clear idea of the roles of an ESP practitioner, and know about the interlink between ESP and PBL. I intend to try such method in my teaching in the next year.”
· “This seminar is be meaningful and useful to me, as I have acquired new knowledge and skills. I know how to design the rubric to assess students' work, how to design a project step by step. I think it will help me much in my teaching career.”
· “I will use WQ and similar methods to apply to my ESP teaching as this is a very useful and interesting method of teaching GE in general and ESP in particular. Learning from other colleagues and staying in touch with them will help me gain greater success in my teaching career.”
While the project has not yet concluded, to date, it has been extremely successful in meeting its overall goals for the sessions concluded. In fact it has exceeded expectations, as noted above. This was the first regional English Language Fellow project of its kind. The organization, management and logistics of the project were complex and required the coordinated efforts of the posts, Fellows and RELO to handle. After the first seminar, once lessons learned were applied, each successive seminar became easier to manage and more successful. USAID/RDMA was a great collaborator and contributed significantly to the substance of the seminars While posts did not receive the smoothness and level of collaboration we had hoped for from our LMI partners (Co-Chairs and host institutions), after continuous negotiation, this has been a collaborative project, with each LMI partner contributing something to the project. It has been a highly successful project.
Prepared by RELO Damon Anderson
July 5, 2012
On December 13, 2011, the Lower Mekong Initiative English project, “Professional Communication Skills for Leaders” was launched. Organized in collaboration with the Government of Thailand and the U.S. Department of State, the program is part of the Lower Mekong Initiative’s Education pillar, and it will give government officials from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam specialized English-language training in the fields of Environment, Health, and Infrastructure Development. The State Department funded the travel of four “English Language Fellows” to this training so that leaders from the four countries will be able to work more effectively with their regional and international partners. The English Language Fellows are Americans who all hold Masters Degrees with a focus on Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). They will participate in 10-month long fellowships in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The program was officially launched through a four-day orientation program at the Chulalongkorn University Language Institute in Bangkok. Dr. Piniti Ratananukul, Deputy Secretary-General of the Office of Higher Education and Thailand’s Co-Chair for the Education Pillar, officially opened the orientation for the four LMI English Language Fellows and their host-country co-teachers who traveled from Vietnam, Cambodia and the Lao PDR to join their Thai counterparts. Damon Anderson, Regional English Language Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, represented the United States, and he was joined by staff from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), who will coordinate specific technical content areas and participant selection. The participants formed a strong English project team, and they agreed upon a schedule of seminars as well as a seminar template that will be used in developing each of the project’s seminars to be carried out in Vietnam, Cambodia, the Lao PDR, and Thailand through September 2012.
LOWER MEKONG INITIATIVE
SECOND REGIONAL WORKING GROUP MEETING
Vientiane, Lao PDR
November 7-8, 2011
On 7-8 November 2011, senior representatives of the Lower Mekong Basin countries, namely Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam, and the United States gathered in Vientiane, Lao PDR, for the Second Regional Working Group Meeting of the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI). Members of the five delegations reviewed progress on the LMI Plan of Action and discussed plans for future cooperative activities in the four LMI pillars of education, environment, public health, and infrastructure.
All senior representatives expressed their deep concern and sympathy for those affected by the devastating flooding that has occurred in the sub-region.
The representatives affirmed that the LMI is an essential regional mechanism and forum for building cooperation and capacity to address pressing challenges in LMI’s four areas of endeavor.
Education: The Education Pillar Working Group reviewed the implementation of the LMI English for Professional Communications Skills for Leaders project, which will provide technical English instruction to regional professionals, specialists, and government officials from the LMI partner countries. Delegates noted the need for regional cooperation in addressing climate change in an educational context. Delegates also discussed a possible regional LMI alumni conference, and future exchange programs with the United States that will focus on themes associated with the LMI Plan of Action.
Environment: The Environment Pillar Working Group welcomed progress on the U.S. Geological Survey-implemented Forecast Mekong Project, which continues to support local research efforts by providing visualization and mapping tools, data integration, and training for scientists of the Lower Mekong sub-region. The delegates noted that the U.S. Geological Survey’s satellite imagery contributed to flood response efforts in the Lower Mekong sub-region.
Delegates expressed concern over the social and economic impact of natural disasters, particularly the recent floods in the region as well as seawater intrusion, and agreed that further studies are needed to examine their underlying causes. They also emphasized the increasing need to protect, conserve, and utilize Mekong water resources sustainably.
Delegates studied the outcomes of recent LMI disaster management workshops supported by the U.S. Pacific Command. They welcomed planned workshops and staff exercises to improve regional coordination and information-sharing in the event of natural disasters. The delegates reviewed USAID’s ARREST (Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking) program, and stated their intention to continue strong collaboration on this important regional and global issue. USAID presented progress on the Lowering Emissions in Asia’s Forests (LEAF) program; the Climate Resilient Mekong program; and Portland State University’s “Planning Approaches for Water Resources Development in the Lower Mekong Basin” study.
Delegates took note of Thailand’s concept for establishing an information center to monitor changes in forest coverage and a related warning system, which would be helpful for regional flood and drought management as well as for coping with the adverse effects of climate change.
Health: In the Health Pillar Working Group, delegates examined the outcomes of recent workshops that help build regional capacity to counter emerging infectious diseases, including TB, HIV/AIDS, malaria, dengue, and others. The working group emphasized the importance of further cooperation and collaboration on the World Health Organization's International Health Regulations and the Emerging Pandemic Threat Program. Delegates also agreed to their respective countries' participation in a Counterfeit Drugs Workshop planned for the first quarter of 2012. Health Pillar Working Group delegates took note of the draft of a letter that, if agreed, would formally recognize the LMI partner countries' individual entry into the Global Alliance on Clean Cookstoves.
In the context of cross-pillar discussions of disaster preparedness, Thailand shared its experiences during the ongoing floods, with a focus on health impacts and consideration of social support needed for people affected by the crisis. Thailand reviewed innovative and flexible provisions made for continued disease surveillance and outbreak control despite logistical and organizational challenges. The delegation noted that this surveillance and public health network had identified food poisoning and diarrhea, but no cholera to date. Thailand plans to share its experience and lessons learned with international agencies and at a future Health Pillar Working Group meeting.
Infrastructure: The Infrastructure Pillar Working Group underscored the importance for LMI partner countries to link infrastructure development to the goals of ASEAN connectivity, and the need for sustainable and environmentally-friendly infrastructure development proposals. Delegates took note with appreciation a proposal for a Best Practices Exchange on Infrastructure Development. This exchange will bring together LMI government officials responsible for infrastructure development and experts from the private and public sectors. The U.S.-ASEAN Business Council supports this endeavor. Delegates considered a series of bridge-and-road construction seminars focused on infrastructure needs in the region. Delegates discussed the importance of the Education Pillar’s technical English language instruction with regard to infrastructure development.
Plenary Discussion: In the Plenary Session, the heads of delegations addressed future LMI activities. They took note of a U.S. proposal for an inaugural LMI Women’s Policy Dialogue to be held in July 2012 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This policy dialogue would bring LMI partner country officials and private sector leaders together with advocates for women’s issues in sectors such as health care, education, environment, infrastructure, economic empowerment, and governance. The delegates committed to returning to capitals for further consideration of the proposal.
The delegates underscored the importance of donor coordination, expressing a desire to continue the Friends of the Lower Mekong mechanism launched in Bali in July 2011, and discussing specific collaborative efforts among donors.
The delegations affirmed the Virtual Secretariat as a valuable tool to foster collaboration, share best practices and lessons learned, and to facilitate the planning of LMI activities.
The LMI partner countries concluded with an agreement to hold the Third Regional Working Group Meeting in 2012 in Bangkok, Thailand, at a time convenient to the partner countries and prior to the July 2012 LMI Ministerial Meeting in Cambodia.
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