Provincial health directors and other personnel across the country are gearing up for the annual review of a European Commission project that seeks to decentralize some of the strategies for fighting malaria.
From Tuesday to Dec 6, malaria experts, researchers and doctors from the 16 provinces with malaria epidemics will meet to discuss plans and assess last year’s progress, said Roberto Garcia, co-director of the EC’s malaria project. Anything from the procurement of more motorbikes for checkups in remote regions to the distribution of more information to villagers can be discussed by each of the provincial health directors, Garcia said.
Malaria is carried by mosquitoes living in the forested hills and mountains of Cambodia. The provinces facing malaria epidemics include Mondolkiri, Ratanakkiri, Stung Treng, Oddar Meanchey, Banteay Meanchey, Pailin, Battambang, Pursat, Koh Kong, Sihanoukville, Kompong Cham, Kampot, Kratie, Kompong Thom and Kompong Speu.
The distribution of bednets, hammock nets, insecticide and proper, easy-to-use medication are all used to fight the disease.
But each province faces its own problems in the battle against malaria in Cambodia, where the movement of refugees into stricken areas, a resistance to drugs and inaccessibility to remote regions can all be obstacles.
To respond to that, Garcia said, much of the upcoming meeting will be dedicated to breaking up into four groups of four provinces in order to closely examine the strategies needed to fight malaria. “They will go really deep into the planning,” Garcia said.
The EC has had an anti-malaria program in Cambodia since 1997. Pilot projects and general strategies were hammered out by 2000, so this year and 2002 are expected to see accelerated success rates against malaria. “2001 has already been a good year,” Garcia said.
Part of that success comes from programs using a cohesive strategy designed by the Ministry of Health and the National Malaria Center. The World Health Organization also provides support, but it is the EC that concentrates on getting technical, logistical and monetary assistance to the provinces.
“[The EC] are more decentralized,” said Dr Stefan Hoyer, the WHO adviser to the National Malaria Center.
Though all figures have not come in from the provinces, Cambodia has seen a general decrease in reported malaria cases, said Dr Tol Bunthea, a researcher at the National Malaria Center.
Programs from the WHO and the EC dovetail, but they all follow the same national plan, which is important when working in developing countries, Garcia said. “The point is really to work together,” he said.
The EC spends $4.85 million on malaria prevention in Cambodia each year, with other money coming from the WHO, Australia, the US and others. That has helped develop successful programs against malaria, Garcia said.
“There’s a lot of financial input…and good coordination,” he said.