International Malaria Conference Scheduled for December

July 25, 2002
By Michelle Vachon
The Cambodia Daily

The Regional Malaria Control Program in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, which the European Commission has been funding for the last five years, will end with an international symposium in Siem Reap in December.

Held under the theme of "Practical Issues," organizers intend the event to be a gigantic brainstorming session on ways to fight malaria in the field.

"We will focus on topics hardly ever discussed," at malaria conferences, the program's Regional Coordinator Frederick Gay said.

Topics have been selected based on the hundreds of comments and questions sent by malaria workers in Asia and other parts of the world during a year-long survey, he said.

Panelists will stay away from the usual lectures on diagnosis and treatment, or most efficient insecticides for mosquito nets, Gay said.

Instead, participants from Asia, Africa and Western countries will share information on practical issues health officials and fields workers face on a regular basis, Gay said.

This will include creating good information channels between local clinics and national offices, and the best ways to distribute medicine "on time, in the right areas and in the right dosage and quality," Gay said.

On these issues, Cambodia will have a series of success stories to talk about, which is one of the reasons the symposium will take place in Cambodia, Gay said.

The various strategies used in the country have led to a sharp decline of malaria cases, said Dr Duong Socheat, director of the National Malaria Center. Statistics show that the number of malaria cases went down 20 percent during the first five months of this year compared to the same period in 2001, he said.

A total of 27,645 cases were reported by the end of May this year compared to 34,576 cases in 2001. This shows that marketing strategies to distribute nets in malaria-prone areas, and to make combination-drug therapy available both in the public and private sectors are working, Duong Socheat said.

In addition, cases requiring hospitalization were slashed by 80 percent during that period, dropping from 1,779 hospitalized patients in 2001 to 345 this year. Dipsticks now available throughout the country makes it possible to identify and treat malaria cases early on, before they get to serious stages, Duong Socheat said.

Also, the village volunteers trained to identify malaria cases and work with health workers to have them treated without delay is paying off, he said. The number of fatal cases also declined during that period, from 147 in 2001 to 114 this year.

Malaria-control specialists from Africa are very interested in the Cambodian experience and intend to discuss strategies with their Cambodian colleges, Gay said.

At this point, about 200 to 500 participants are expected to attend, organizers say.