Mission From Lao Tours National Anti-Malaria Programs

By Van Roeun and Alex Halperin
The Cambodia Daily

A delegation from Laos, including representatives from the Lao Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization office in Vientiane, concluded a five-day malaria study tour of Cambodia on Friday.

Dr Nong Saokry, deputy director of Cambodia’s National Malaria Center, said the delegation came "to learn how we have implemented our malaria control program."

Among the techniques Cambodia showed the delegation were the packaging and distribution of altasenate and mefloquine, drugs used to treat malaria.

The visit was a chance for Cambodia to demonstrate its communication network between officials in Phnom Penh and officials in provincial towns for distributing mosquito nets and drugs. 

These innovations, Nong Saokry said Wednesday, have reduced Cambodia’s malaria mortality rate to half that of Laos and Burma. The malaria rate has declined from 1,400 reported deaths in 1998 to 420 so far this year, he said.

The delegation visited health centers in Chhuk and Chumkiri districts, malarial areas in Kampot province, where they met with village volunteers working to treat malaria patients. They also visited the Cambodia Pharmaceutical Enterprise, where lower-priced malaria drugs are manufactured, he said.

The visit included a cultural component, as the delegation toured Phnom Penh, visiting the National Museum, the Royal Palace and other sites. The delegates each bought 30 to 40 kg of fish at Phsar O’Russei, Nong Saokry said, "because their country is
not as rich in fish as our country is."

He said Cambodia planned to send a 10-person delegation to Laos in December for a similar exchange.

A spokesman for the Lao Embassy said he was not aware of the delegation or future exchange programs.  Dr Eng Huot, director general for health promotion at the Ministry of Health, said this sort of cultural exchange was a useful way for Cambodian health professionals to learn and teach.

"We need to send more of our staff abroad to learn from their experience," he said Wednesday.

"We welcome other countries, but they have to pay for themselves," he added, noting that the Lao delegation received independent funding for its study tour, as did a Nigerian group that visited last month to study the increased decentralization of the Cambodian health care system.

Similarly, he said, funding is an obstacle to Cambodia sending large delegations of health professionals overseas. The government can only afford to send "one or two people to attend seminars or conferences."

He said Dr Mam Bun Heng, secretary of state for the ministry, would be Cambodia’s next medical representative abroad. He is leaving Friday to attend a UNAIDS conference at the organization’s headquarters in New York, Eng Huot said.