Mekong Nations Map Education Strategies for Minorities

World Health Organization teams from Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam met last week in Rangoon to coordinate their 22-month Me­kong region project, which aims to provide educational materials about malaria to ethnic minority groups.

“We needed to meet to plan our next proposal to the [Asian Development Bank] so that we can receive sufficient time and funds to implement, monitor and evaluate the health materials we are creating,” said Dr Kim Yadany, a WHO medical officer who attended the meeting.

The program was officially launched in November 2002 with funding from the ADB.

A team from China’s Yunnan province could not attend the meeting.

The Cambodian team selected the Krung ethnic minority group in Ratanakkiri province as the focus for its education project because the National Malaria Center and other NGOs told the world health body that they had difficulty communicating with the Krung people.

The WHO and the National Malaria Center conducted field research earlier this year with the Krung, and the results of their studies were shared at the conference in Rangoon.

In contrast with an earlier study a few months ago, which noted that 45 percent of the participants did not know what caused malaria, the WHO study conducted in Sep­­tember found that 85 percent of the participants understood that “Krun Ngor,” the Krung term for malaria, was caused by mosquito bites. Ten percent thought it was caused by the dam­nation of forest spirits.

Finding avenues of communication with the Krung has not been easy. The Krung’s native language was strictly oral until two years ago, when an NGO, International Cooperation Cam­bodia, codified a written language for them.

While the WHO plans to develop prototypes for flip charts, posters, billboards and television spots, it now knows that it must use photos in all of these mediums, because the Krung also do not understand representational drawing, Kim Yadany said.

“They like to see pictures of themselves, but if you show them the drawing of a human hands washing, they will not understand,” Kim Yadany said.

She said she hopes that the health education materials will be distributed to the Krung and the message will be “understandable to them so that they can start learn and teach among themselves the dangers of malaria.”

The ADB provided $600,000 for the six-country project, with additional funding possible after the prototypes for the health materials are created.

“The ADB rarely gives money to ethnic minorities,” Kim Yadany said.

The Cambodian team has sufficient funds only to conduct re­search and develop prototypes of the materials that they eventually plan to distribute widely among the Krung, she added. The WHO office in Manila will present the proposal for additional funding to the ADB in two months.


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