Having accomplished a significant decrease in the number of people who die each year from malaria, the government should not relent in its battle against the disease, health experts say.
For example, although statistics for each country show a huge drop in fatal cases since the start of the European Commission’s program, which ended earlier this month, participants at a regional malaria conference say they recognize that the causes of death tend to be poorly identified in remote areas.
They also stressed the need to train both medical and nursing staff to handle severe malaria cases in health centers and hospitals. Moreover, since there is no vaccine against malaria, it cannot be eradicated.
In his wrap-up address for this year’s Mekong Malaria Symposium, Peter Beales, a leading malaria expert, said there is a correlation between malaria and a country’s gross national product, with the GNP dropping as malaria cases increase.
Worldwide, economic losses from malaria are estimated at $40 million per day, he said. “Malaria keeps people poor, and poor people have malaria.”
The disease impairs the thinking process and causes disability at its severe stage, Beales said.
Participants agreed that village health volunteers have become key fighters in the war against malaria in remote areas. But opinions vary as to how to encourage them to pursue their tasks.
In Cambodia, each volunteer receives about $2 for attending regular meetings at health care centers—which can take up to one day to reach—while in Vietnam they receive a monthly bonus of $13. However, they can help control malaria only if they continue to get simple diagnostic and treatment kits and are supported and trained by government health staff, conference participants said.
The spread of fake drugs, which may amount for more than two-thirds of the medicine on the market in Cambodia and other countries, makes it essential to continue working with the private sector to supply the public with appropriate medicine, experts said.
Continued information campaigns to make the public seek the right products should also be pursued, they said.
In Cambodia, the National Malaria Center has been promoting in the private sector a combination-drug treatment marketed under the trade name of Malarine; it is also used in public-health facilities but without the trade name.
Participants also noted the need to re-impregnate bednets with insecticide before the start of the rainy season.
The symposium, which took place in Siem Reap earlier this month, attracted 320 health officials and malaria experts from 24 countries.
With the conclusion of the EC program on Dec 31, governments in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are looking for funding to continue their activities.