Fake Drugs, Influx of Refugees Top Issues for Malaria Meet

The National Malaria Center is gearing up for its annual conference, facing new challenges in its fight against one of Cambodia’s largest killers.

About 120 people are expected to attend the three-day conference, including members from every province who fight rural diseases such as malaria, dengue and schistosomiasis. The conference begins March 29, and will include workshops, discussions and speeches on disease control.

New challenges faced by the center and other NGOs include the dis­covery last year of the pres­­ence of fake malaria medication and the in­creased movement of former refugees and other settlers into malaria-infested reg­ions.

Last October, it was discovered that markets, pharmacies and even hospitals were selling cheap malaria medication, which turned out to be only placebos disguised as a cure. The European Com­mission Malaria Control Pro­gram has launched a subsequent media and informational campaign, and the Ministry of Health is work­ing toward outlawing the sales of such fake medicine.

But, as Dr Doung Socheat, vice director of the National Malaria Center points out, such methods do not always work.

“In Cambodia, it is not always so easy to apply the law,” he said Wednesday. Even if the proper pills were sold, “medicine is not enough for malaria control.”

The center also works to educate locals and medical experts on the sym­ptoms and causes of malaria. Other NGOs also work toward capacity building, training medical staff to recognize, diagnose and treat malaria.

Ironically, new peace in the coun­try has brought a new challenge to malaria combatants. Now that some areas in the north­west are no longer Khmer Rouge-controlled, families are moving in to create homesteads. These areas are often infested with mosquitoes infected with malaria, which then attack the new families which have no immunity to the disease.

About 800 malaria deaths are counted by government hospitals per year, Doung Socheat said, but the number of deaths that can be attributed to the blood parasite is probably two or three times higher because doctors in the private sector are not re­quired to report them.



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