National Malaria Center Set to Launch Volunteer Program

4 September 2003
By Michelle Vachon
The Cambodia Daily

The National Malaria Center is launching its nationwide medical volunteer program this month with the goal that, by next yearís rainy season, Cambodiaís 300 most remote and inaccessible villages will have malaria workers on hand to handle basic care.
The program consists of training two volunteers in each village, male and female, to identify malaria symptoms, perform a malaria dipstick test, distribute prepackaged medicine based on a patientís age and report on the situation to health centers in the area.

The program was piloted in the provinces of Ratanakkiri and Koh Kong in 2001 and 2002 by the National Malaria Center, as part of the European Commissionís malaria program. 

In the 45 villages involved in the pilot project, the number of malaria cases had dropped by 44 percent compared with 2000-01, while cases in neighboring villages had gone up 28 percent, said Sean Hewitt, a malaria control specialist with the German
Technical Cooperation program who worked on the pilot project and now serves as consultant to set up the nationwide program.

The 300 villages are being selected through a thorough process, he said. The startup team, which is headed by Chea Ngoun of the Malaria Center, first uses maps to identify villages in forested areas of the country. Next, the team confers with provincial health authorities to ensure that the list of villages is complete.

This is followed by a visit to each village on the list, during which the team tests 20 children from 2 to 9 years old to find out how widespread malaria is in that village.

"This will enable us to identify the 300 most-needy villages based on their location and on the prevalence of malaria among their population," Hewitt said. 

Village chiefs and elders will be asked to recommend candidates as malaria workers, he said. They will be chosen based on their availability and education. Being able to read and write would be an advantage since they have to file reports with health authorities, Hewitt said.

"However," he added, "it is not essentialóforms were developed for nonliterate people."

After training, malaria workers will be monitored for as long as it takes for the malaria center to gain confidence in their skills. They will receive $2 twice a month, plus the cost of transportation, to attend bimonthly meetings.

The program will be funded by the Global Fund, whose grant is expected to be delivered towards the end of the year.
Budget permitting, this malaria-worker concept should be expanded to other diseases, said Mam Bun Heng, secretary of state for the Ministry of Health.

Training volunteers on basic care for more than one disease would be an efficient way to provide medical assistance to remote and inaccessible areas, he said.