Hopes High for 3-Year Kompong Speu Malaria Program

December 18, 2003
By Kate Woodsome
The Cambodia Daily

A China-Cambodia partnership program launched in Kompong Speu province Wednesday has set the groundwork for a long-term malaria control and evaluation program aimed at elucidating the effectiveness of disease-fighting strategies, health officials said Wednesday.

Until this week, Cambodia has never conducted a comprehensive assessment of malaria control programs for more than a year, said Dr Suon Seila, acting chief of the National Malaria Center's technical bureau. Kompong Speu's new program will last three years.

"We can't eliminate malaria in high endemic areas in a year," Suon Seila said. Assessments, therefore, generally end before the malaria does, offering an incomplete measure of success.

But over three years, field studies could document a complete, or nearly complete, control program and help future strategies, Suon Seila said.

The program's inauguration on Wednesday united Ministry of Health and National Malaria Center officials with staff from southern China's Guangzhou University.

The school is contributing technical support and $180,000 for the purchase of anti-malaria drugs, National Malaria Center Director Dr Duong Socheat said.

Health Ministry Secretary of State Mam Bun Heng lauded the partnership and volunteer program on Wednesday.

"It's a good benefit for the population to understand the scope of activities," he said. "We can use these strategies not just in malaria, but in other fields, like sanitation."

Sixty-eight villagers from three districts will fuel the new program after receiving training in malaria diagnosis, treatment and reporting, Suon Seila said.

NGOs, district chiefs and provincial health staff selected qualified volunteers from Oral, Phnom Sruoch and Thpong districts. They now are looking for more participants, particularly women, who are more likely to stay home, Suon Seila added.

Though not licensed as doctors, village malaria volunteers have been relied on nationwide to promote safe health practices.

Formal education on malaria prevention and treatment is scarce for Cambodians in remote areas, or for ethnic minorities with distinct languages and cultural beliefs. Health volunteers are key vehicles to spreading information to these groups.

The success, and possible extension, of the three-year program depends on commitment and communication, Suon Seila said. Malaria volunteers must pass their reports to district health centers, which then will be turned over to provincial health centers, the National Malaria Center and, finally, the Ministry of Health.