Malaria Center Applauds Gov't Efforts Toward Health Care

December 4, 2003
By Kate Woodsome
The Cambodia Daily

The National Malaria Center this week will deliver a draft copy of its policies and strategies to the Ministry of Health to comply with a government plan to outline a uniform blueprint for health care.

A national plan created by the Ministry of Health for 2003 through 2007 details ambitious goals to make health care available to all. The plan's ideal implementation would offer people information needed to make wise health decisions and provide quality health services staffed by competent professionals at affordable prices.

But these goals are a distant reality for the millions of poor people who presently cannot afford basic health care, and the others who are falling into debt to pay for treatment.

This week, the Health Ministry will collect policy documents from several departments to be compiled into a national database. The formulation and collection of these plans is, at least, a first step toward better health, National Malaria Center officials said this week.

"I'm happy with the government's progress," said Seshu Babu, a National Malaria Center adviser. "At least it's a beginning."
Malaria is one of the leading causes of death in the country and is the principle cause for hospitalization, according to the center's policy document. Among the officially recorded deaths in 2000, malaria mortality in Cambodia was four times higher than in Thailand, and almost 23 times higher than in Vietnam, the document states.

"Malaria transmission in Cambodia is very focal, and in most locations is also unstable.... For this reason, accurate targeting to the populations most at risk is a key determinant of the effectiveness of vector control," the document reads.

Establishing a uniform approach to fighting malaria will ensure that proven preventative measures and treatment programs are offered to the public, even by the smallest independent organizations, said Dr Kheng Sim, head of the center's technical office.
"If we don't have the policy, how can we implement the activities?" she said Tuesday. "If each program has no clear strategy, we can't conduct or evaluate their effectiveness."

Without a standard anti-malaria strategy, smaller NGOs and groups can be misguided in their approach to disease-fighting, Seshu Babu said.

"They get funding from overseas but don't know which is the insecticide of choice," he said.

The center's policy describes preventative measures, insecticide choice and usage, bed nets treated with insecticides, and drug regimes for those suffering from malaria.

Because a standard policy already is being implemented throughout the country, little work was done to the in-house document offered to the Health Ministry, Kheng Sim said. Now Malaria Center staff are scrambling to finesse their 2004 strategy to secure funding from donors, she said.