The National Malaria Sub-Committee is expected to give the go-ahead next week for a new malaria campaign that makes Cambodia one of the first countries to focus on the private sector in the fight against this disease.
This strategy was prompted by a pilot project in September in Battambang and Kampot provinces. An initial survey showed that nine out of 10 Cambodians had gone to private medical facilities for treatment, where they had usually been prescribed the wrong medicine or improper dosages.
Anarchy reigns in the private medical sector, with no one controlling people’s qualifications, said Duong Socheat, director of the National Malaria Center.
But since the poorly-paid medical staff in public facilities often keep odd hours, working other jobs, people turn to the private sector for treatment, he said.
The campaign’s goal will be to provide doctors and medical staff in the private practice with a three-day treatment kit containing the right dosage of a combination of drugs used to combat simple malaria cases. The kits, sold to private clinics at wholesale prices, will include a 15-minute test for malaria, to be administered before prescribing treatment.
The campaign will be introduced to the public through radio and television commercials, letting Cambodians know about the dipstick test and the treatment kit. The campaign will also include training of medical personnel in the private sector, said Mey Bouth Denis, national co-director of the Malaria Control Project.
The treatment kit, called Malarine, will ensure that the private sector has a quality product, with the right dosage and at reasonable prices for a short-term cure of simple malaria cases, Duong Socheat said.
Prices will range from $0.63 to $1 for the test, and $1.13 to $2.25 for the treatment depending on the area and availability, said Ros Seyha, coordinator of the Social Marketing Program for the Malaria Control Project.
The Malarine kit contains Mefloquine and Artesunate, a combination of drugs that Cambodia selected a year ago as the appropriate first-line treatment for the p falciparum parasite species. It is the only combination therapy for malaria that has undergone all required field tests, said Allan Schapira, regional malaria adviser for the World Health Organizaiton.
Efforts will concentrate in areas where people are most at risk for malaria, said Roberto Garcia, European co-director of the Malaria Control Project.
The national offensive should be launched by the end of the year, he said.
Partners in the project include the Ministry of Health, the Cambodia Malaria Control Project and the WHO.
Between 1998 and 2000, efforts to curb malaria reduced simple cases by a third, from 199,979 recorded cases in 1998 to 129,127 cases last year. During the same period, severe cases rose from 4,580 to 6,207. However last year, the number of deaths due to malaria reported by the country’s hospitals was only 601, the lowest level since 1992.