snoul district, Kratie province – Making the trip to medical centers in Snuol or Mimot may take Doun Meas villagers 45 minutes in the dry season and as long as two hours in the rainy months.
But rain or shine, the trip can cost two to three days worth of wages–-money villagers who scrape a living from farming, hunting or wood gathering often cannot afford.
So they often don’t make the trip when they are sick, said Michelle Lang, child survival program coordinator at Partners for Development. In this malaria-prone region of Kratie province, it means people do not get medical care for a disease that can be lethal if not treated in its early stages.
The European Commission Malaria Control Program has built health posts in the region. On April 6 and April 7, representatives from the EC program and the National Malaria Center inaugurated two of these health posts, one in Doun Meas village and the other in Krang Tes village, Mondolkiri province. Participants included medical officials from Laos and Vietnam.
As soon as the ribbon had been cut at the Doun Meas post, one little girl was rushed inside—she had a fever and doctors among the visitors suspected malaria.
These health posts are being built in the 16 provinces where malaria is prevalent in order to provide basic medical services, said Frederick Gay, regional coordinator for the EC program in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
For Kratie and Mondolkiri provinces, the EC malaria program planned five health posts in forest areas filled with malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Project coordination, along with malaria control activities, was turned over to NGOs Partners in Development in Kratie province and Medecins du Monde in Mondolkiri province, Gay said.
The health posts will be able to identify and treat people with malaria without delay, said Duong Socheat, director of the National Malaria Center.
The posts will be equipped with malaria kits, which includes a dipstick test that minutes after a patient gives a finger prick sample can determine if he has malaria.
The posts will also be stocked with combination drug therapies. Each post will serve between 1,500 and 3,000 people.
The Ministry of Health’s strategy is to have hospitals for patients who need them, and medical centers for outpatient services, said Mey Bouth Denis, national co-director for the EC program. The national criteria is to provide one medical center for every 8,000 to 10,000 people, he said.
Krang Tes village, Mondolkiri province, where a health post was inaugurated on April 7, is virtually cut off from Sen Monorom from July through September, said Philippe Guyant, Medecins du Monde’s medical coordinator for the province. So health posts must be stocked with ample medical supplies to provide basic services.
Although the number of malaria cases has dropped drastically since 1999, the disease remains Mondolkiri province’s foremost health problem, said Guyant. Last year, 49 persons per 1,000 contracted the disease, he said. The province, whose population of 40,000 is approximately 80 percent ethnic Phnong, is covered with forest.
The health posts will be staffed by two health care workers provided by the Ministry of Health. They will be assisted by village volunteers trained by NGOs.
Photo cutline: The ribbon had just been cut for the inauguration of the Doun Meas village health post in Kratie province when it received its first patient. She had fever and was immediately tested for malaria. Photo Michelle Vachon