Foreign Doctors Give Feedback on Siem Reap Malaria Efforts

Health professionals from eight Asean countries, Nepal and North Korea gathered at the Na­tional Malaria Center in Phnom Penh on Wednesday for the fifth Thai­land and Cambodia-sponsored Malaria Field Oper­ations Pro­gram.

The 18 doctors and administrators had completed field training in data collection and epidemic con­­trol in Siem Reap province, where the conference will close Saturday.

The program began with seminars in Bangkok and tours of ma­laria endemic Thai villages be­fore heading to northwestern Cam­bo­dia. In Phnom Penh on Wednes­day, participants shared their im­pressions of the malaria problem in Cambodia and the government’s efforts to combat it.

Dr Amir Mirullah from Malay­sia said he will remember most the three days spent at a site in Svay Leu district in Siem Reap prov­ince. Just getting to the 22 villages in which malaria is endemic was a challenge. “The road conditions are very poor and the villages are nearly inaccessible to health centers,” he said.

The prevalence of the disease was greater that what he was used to in Malaysia. “I was surprised by the conditions in Cambodia,” he said. “It is much worse, except for a few areas in my country.”

But Mirullah praised the gov­ern­ment’s efforts. “The strong point is the outright cooperation be­tween the government and NGOs like Medecins Sans Front­iers,” he said. “I would say 60 percent of cas­­es were discovered by NGOs charged with active case de­tec­tion.”

In Svay Leu, the program conducted focus groups consisting of six males and six females. “Among the males there was some knowledge of malaria,” said Mi­rullah, but among the females “not so much.”

He said the women participants said that four to five days a month they must tend to rice fields near the forest. “There they sleep in huts without protection.”

Giri Raj Subedi, a public health worker from western Nepal, also ex­pressed shock and dismay at the level of malaria education in the provinces. “Health education needs to seriously [be] improved in this country,” Subedi said.

“It is one thing to hand out bed nets, but people must understand how to use them. The villagers living near the for­est do not have perfect knowledge of how to use them. When they are hot at night they throw them off. They go reg­u­larly to the for­est and sleep outside without per­sonal protection.”

Dr Tho Sochantha, field director at the National Malaria Center, welcomed the exchange of ideas.

“Other countries have dif­fer­ent stra­tegies,” he said. “We learn from communicating our ex­per­iences.”

He added that by training foreign professionals, the center gains experience for training Cam­bodian doctors on eliminating one of the world’s worst kil­lers.


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