Bandit Attack Cuts Medical Supply in NE

banlung, Ratanakkiri province – Health centers in Ratanakkiri province have about one month before running out of basic drugs, health workers said Fri­day.

The shortage is the result of a Khmer New Year attack on a tri-annual shipment of medical supplies from Phnom Penh to the northeastern province.

Bandits reportedly burned the 2-ton shipment of medical supplies and several of the trucks that were carrying it as it passed through Stung Treng province near the border of neighboring Kratie province, health workers said. Motives for the attack re­main unclear.

Police and security officials reached on Monday could not confirm the attack.

Delivery of the shipment of needed drugs was paid for by the British NGO Health Unlimited and the Thai NGO Catholic Of­fice for Emergency Relief and Re­fugees, said Jan De Jong, Health Unlimited’s regional representative.

Since the reported attack, health and NGO workers said they have been bringing basic medicine to Ratanakkiri in their personal luggage whenever traveling from Phnom Penh.

The region usually has trouble receiving drugs because of the expense of shipping supplies to the remote province, said Sim Sonlay, the director of the provincial health department. The attack, however, has added security to the list of problems.

Now, people do not know how the next shipment will get here and who will pay for it.

The director of the Ratanakkiri Referral Hospital, Thabun Thak, said his hospital is running low on basic antibiotics and drugs for tuberculosis and malaria.

“If many patients come, we will have a serious problem,” said Dr Khim Somarth, a surgeon at the Ratanakkiri hospital. The hospital treats about 40 outpatients and five overnight patients per day.

The provincial health department said they notified the Min­istry of Health and are awaiting a shipment. An official at the ministry said Mon­day he had not yet been informed of the problem.

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