contain + eliminate = no parasite

Village Malaria Workers: ‘The Foot Soldiers’ in Malaria Fight

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A village malaria worker in the Cambodian village of O Preus in Pailin province takes a blood sample from two young men to test for malaria. Pix by WHO/Harri Anenden

THE diagnosis begins: “What’s your name?”

“Yeath Mab.”

“How long have you been sick?”

“Three days.”

“Did you ever have malaria before?”

“Yes, five years ago.”

“How do you feel now?”

“I have a fever and I feel a shiver in my body.”

The blood test begins.

“Wait 15 minutes!”

One, two, three, four, five… 15 minutes have passed.

“You have no malaria.”

Village malaria workers are trained to diagnose malaria using a rapid diagnostic test, also known as a “dipstick”. The results are available in 15 minutes. Pix by WHO/Sonny Krishnan

To a stranger, Rin Tith, a 30-year-old father from Angdong Pee village in Cambodia’s Pailin province, looks like a professional physician the way he does the diagnosis, the test and treatment. But he is no medical doctor.

He is just a Malaria Education Village Volunteer, better known as Village Malaria Worker or VMW, who has been trained to do the diagnosis, the test and treatment for malaria at the village level. This project is part of Cambodia’s malaria containment efforts spearheaded by the World Health Organization and implemented by the Cambodian National Malaria Centre.

Rin Tith continues. He tells the sick migrant worker that his illness is just a normal fever. Then, he gives him a few fever pills and reminds him to sleep in a mosquito net to avoid getting malaria.

The patient returns home.

Under its ambitious containment strategy, the Cambodian National Malaria Center (CNM) has trained almost 3,000 VMW’s nationwide, including 86 villagers in Pailin.

These “foot soldiers,” as an expert puts it, received a three-day training to do the diagnosis, the test and the treatment in their villages for farmers and other people.

A sign, in Pailin's Pich Kiri Village, showing the times when the VMW is available. There is an after-hours mobile contact number. Pix by WHO/sonny inbaraj

To target the mobile workers, CNM has trained more than a hundred Migrant Malaria Workers, or MMW’s, who were chosen among the migrant workers themselves. Upon completion of the training, each VMW was provided with a bicycle, a pair of boots, a bag, a flashlight, a raincoat and a cooler box to keep medicines plus a 10-dollars-monthly support.

But, it’s usually personal stories and experience that motivate villagers to become voluntary VMWs.

Rin Tith says that he himself has been sick with malaria 20 times since he moved to Pailin nine years ago. So, he says he immediately took the offer when he was asked to be a VMW a few years ago. His main purpose is to help fight malaria.

Top Malay, a 22-year-old farm owner in Pailin’s Suon Ampov Keut village, says she decided to become a VMW because she wanted to learn the skills and to help people avoid getting sick, particularly the migrant laborers she hired to work on her farm.

“We gave them mosquito nets and educated them about malaria,” she says when the laborers return to Pailin during the corn harvest twice a year.

It helps reduce poverty when they don’t have to pay for their treatment which is free of charge

Like Rin Tith and Top Malay, 39-year-old Long Vuthy from Pailin’s Phnom Dambang village, says he decided to be a VMW to help reduce malaria deaths and illness.

“I think this village is far from the Health Center and the hospital [so it needs a VMW],” he says, pointing his finger into the distance.

Many villagers say they welcome the idea of having VMWs to treat malaria.

“It’s good that we have VMWs nearby in case we are sick at night,” explains Kim Sary, a 53-year-old farmer in Andong Pee village. “Their drugs are very effective if you take them properly.”

Korn Huoth, a 32-year-old farmer in Phnom Dambang village, agrees.

“VMWs have done a good job [and] are friendly with the villagers,” he says.

The strategy of deploying VMWs in malaria infested areas has proven to be a success in combating malaria, says Dr. Po Ly, Cambodian National Malaria Centre’s VMWs Project Team Leader.

“We’ve seen good results that there’ve been less malaria cases now,” he says. “It’s a good strategy to reduce malaria deaths and malaria resistant [parasites].”

However, Dr. Po Ly says the success should also be attributed to the cooperation from the Ministry of Health and local authorities.

Dr. Po Ly says he is pleased that the villagers trust VMWs despite their reluctance at the start of the project.

“At the beginning, people didn’t believe them as they had been trained only a few days,” he says. “Now, people believe them after they had effectively treated [many] patients.”

Dr. Po Ly says the villagers have many other advantages of having VMWs.

“It helps reduce poverty when they don’t have to pay for their treatment which is free of charge,” he explains.

He adds that the villagers can do more work and make more money when they are not sick.

Chhean Nariddh Moeun


Written by malariacontainment

September 10, 2010 at 10:08 am

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