Archive for the ‘Cambodia’ Category
Moeun Chhean Nariddh reports on a mobile phone-based frontline reporting system for detected malaria cases, implemented in Kampot province.
From her house in Snay Anchit Village, about five kilometers from the health center in Kampot provonce’s Chum Kiri district, 20-year-old village malaria worker Kong Lida can clearly hear the noise of a generator roaring in the distance. This generator is an important source of power where Lida and other villagers have their car batteries charged everyday so that their houses can be lit up at night from electric lamps and at the same time charge up their mobile phones.
But soon Lida and other village malaria workers in her village and other communes will not need to pay the generator owner to have their car batteries charged anymore. Now, all these VMWs will get their power from a ubiquitous source of energy – namely solar power.
As part of the country’s malaria elimination strategy, the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control or CNM, with technical support from Malaria Consortium (MC) and WHO, has launched a pilot program to train VMWs in Kampot, Siem Reap and Kampong Cham provinces on how to send simple mobile phone text messages (SMS) to report in real time on detected malaria cases. These SMS messages also support the paper reporting that feeds into the health information system from the health centers.
CNM and MC also provide each of the VMWs with a solar panel and a lamp together with a mobile phone and a charger since there is no electricity in their villages.
Cambodia is currently seeing a revolution in communications with the roll-out of affordable wireless services to much of the rural population. The potential of approaches based on mobile phones and web-based technology to address the gaps in field data collection for malaria is now widely recognized.
“I think using a mobile phone is good, because I can report immediately when I come across a malaria case,” said village malaria worker Lida. Previously, the VMWs would record the data in a logbook which they would then report to the health centers at the end of every month before it was sent to the operational district hospitals and finally to CNM.
InSTEDD, an innovative humanitarian technology NGO, designed the system, utilizing SMS messages in Khmer script that interact with mapping software to generate maps on the World Wide Web for the locations of malaria cases reported by the VMWs. These malaria cases are also known as Day Zero cases, to indicate the locations of the patients before they are given appropriate and effective treatment.
Respondent-Driven Sampling on the Thailand-Cambodia Border: Can Malaria Cases be Contained in Mobile Migrant Workers?
Respondent driven sampling methodology, for hidden populations, is an effective strategy to study the migrant populations from Myanmar and Cambodia on the Thailand-Cambodia border, write Amnat Khamsiriwatchara, Piyaporn Wangroongsarb, Julie Thwing, James Eliades, Wichai Satimai, Charles Delacollette and Jaranit Kaewkungwal in the Malaria Journal.
There is substantial population movement across the Thai-Cambodian border that is largely driven by economics. Migrants from both Cambodia and Myanmar settle for varying periods of time in Thailand, often in search of work. The International Organization of Migration reported that Thailand has attracted increasing numbers of migrant workers, mostly from neighbouring countries with over one million registered migrant workers entering the country since 2004.
Channels for migration, in particular labour migration, are defined by the policy of the destination country, usually in response to the demand of domestic labour markets for foreign workers. When the supply through established channels does not match the demand, irregular migration dynamics develop, and migrants enter illegally and undocumented.
While various government ministries attempt to collect data on migrant workers, they usually have information on the number of registered migrants and those applying for work permits, but little information on the unregistered migrants. The true size of the migrant worker population in Thailand, in particular of irregular migrants, is notoriously difficult to quantify.
Rather than classifying migrant workers as documented or undocumented, the Thailand Ministry of Public Health defines migrants who have been in Thailand for more than six months as M1, and migrants who have been in Thailand for less than six months as M2.
Both M1 and M2 migrants are eligible to receive diagnosis and treatment for malaria free of charge at malaria clinics in border zones. Patients who cross the border for a day to seek treatment at the border clinics are counted among the M2. Migrants in Thailand account for a higher proportion of cases than Thai citizens, especially among the M2 migrants.
CONTAINMENT’s Moeun Chhean Nariddh profiles a popular interactive radio program on malaria education broadcast from Battambang.
As the sun sets in a late afternoon in Cambodia’s Battambang province, many housewives, shopkeepers, farmers and others stay glued to their radio sets to listen to music and songs played from FM radio stations along both sides of the Steung Sangke – a legendary river that was embroidered in many fond Khmer love songs and romantic music from the 1960s and 1970s.
Before too long, this entertainment comes to an abrupt end on the Chamkar Chek National Radio as the clock strikes 5pm.
Unlike the DJs at other private stations who continue playing music or singing karaoke songs along with their listeners, Soeum Chamnan at Chamkar Chek Radio is now engaged in a more serious radio show. She changes from entertaining her audience to helping save lives of people who are at risk of getting malaria.
For an hour from 5pm to 6pm, every Friday, Chamnan’s task is to coordinate a radio talk show, jointly produced by the USAID-funded Malaria Control in Cambodia, Equal Access and the National Malaria Control Center, during which listeners pose questions to experts about how to protect themselves and get treatment for the mosquito-borne disease. The radio program is also fully funded by USAID.
CONTAINMENT recently spoke to Dr. Char Meng Chuor the new Director of the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control (CNM).
One big concern is malaria on the move. How important is the role of village malaria workers or VMWs in the early diagnosis and treatment of mobile migrant workers?
Yes, indeed, malaria on the move among mobile migrant workers is worrying. But first let me clarify one thing on terminology. I like to refer to the village malaria workers as community health workers because they can also work on other diseases at the community-level. At present in each health centers there are only seven to eight full-time health staff as first-line health workers. And as you know most of the villages are far from the health centers. So we need these community health workers to support the work of the health centers.
When Khmer people fall sick, they end to seek treatment from the nearest source available to them. And most often, these community health workers are nearest to them. For that reason they are so important in the fight to contain multi-drug resistant malaria. These community health workers not only carry out early diagnosis and treatment, but they also provide vital information to the mobile migrant workers on how they can protect themselves against malaria.
Counterfeit and substandard anti-malarials are one of the causes for the emergence of MDR-falciparum malaria. What are the efforts to eliminate these counterfeit and substandard drugs sold by the private sector and also enforce the ban on oral artemisinin monotheraphy?
First of all, we have to ensure that communities must have access to genuine medicines. This is essential. We can ban oral monotherapies, but if sick people do not know where to get effective anti-malarials, we will go back to square one. Secondly I need to emphasize the importance of law enforcement. The elimination of malaria by 2025 is a government priority and so it’s important that legislation is in place for the law enforcers to start the crackdown of counterfeit malaria medicines.
But let us not forget that we have to also work with the private sector through partnerships. We are now drafting the strategy for the public-private mix, in terms of malaria. We’re still in the learning process, when it comes to dealing with the private sector. But there’s a lot of donor goodwill to provide technical assistance. The chink in the armour is the private sector because most Khmers when they fall sick go to the pharmacies or drug stores first. We have to convince the private sector on why they need to be good and responsible providers to prevent a public health emergency that could cross borders.
What are the lessons learnt from the Containment Project, and how can these lessons be used as we move from malaria control to elimination?
CNM has been implementing the containment project since January 2009, and we have many lessons to share. The first and most important lesson is that it is possible to reduce malaria incidence in the target zones through good management and implementation of proven strategies in malaria control, such as high-level coverage of long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets, provision of free diagnosis and treatment at the community level, and engagement of the community through malaria education and awareness programs. CNM, through the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the assistance of technical partners such as WHO, Institute Pasteur and Malaria Consortium, and others, has helped us achieve this.
We have also found that, when malaria cases begin to decrease, the role of systematic gathering of health information, including malaria surveillance and response becomes very important. As malaria cases decrease in Cambodia and we are on our path towards elimination, we need to strengthen surveillance systems to capture information on cases up to the village level, and also concentrate on responding to increases in cases through distribution of bed nets and indoor residual spraying.
Another lesson learned is the need to engage and work closely with the private sector in order to be informed of those malaria cases treated by the private sector, in pharmacies and private clinics, and to provide incentives to the private sector to help in the fight against the sale and manufacture of artemisinin monotherapies, as well as fake and substandard drugs.
Also, we need to be sure to have the full support and participation of communities in the fight against artemisinin-resistant malaria, and also move towards elimination. This can be facilitated through wide-ranging media awareness campaigns, community mobilization through local community organizations and distribution of information, education and communication materials, as well as advocacy by involved leaders and authorities.
Em Khin Vorac, Deputy Director General, Department of Customs and Excise of the Government of Cambodia, speaks to CONTAINMENT’s Moeun Chhean Nariddh in Phnom Penh.
How is the General Department of Customs and Excise involved in the fight against counterfeit products and medicines?
With support from the Mekong Priority Solidarity Fund Project, coordinated by the French Embassy, we are active partners with other project members including the Ministry of Interior. We have had a number of meetings and workshops on the joint crackdown on counterfeit products and medicines. Our Customs officers are now positioned at different checkpoints along the land borders with Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Most of the counterfeits, originating from neighbouring countries, seem to be getting through these checkpoints and for this reason we have increased the number of Customs personnel at these border crossings.
Our Customs officers remain vigilant. Some of these counterfeit medicines are smuggled through in small quantities in people’s handbags. Sometimes, they conceal them with lawful goods. For example, they might conceal about ten small cantons (of counterfeit medicines) with sacks of cement, piles of iron, boxes of cakes and sweets and other items where Customs duties have been paid. Under such circumstances it can get difficult to check all items coming into the country through these land borders.
Members of the Buddhist clergy certainly have an important role to play in positive behaviour change when it comes to malaria prevention, writes CONTAINMENT’S Moeun Chhean Nariddh.
In a spacious, yet unfinished dinning hall at Serey Mongkul Pagoda near the Cambodian-Thai border in Battambang Province, young and old villagers sing songs and play games with health workers and malaria experts at a handover ceremony, to local villagers, of a positive behaviour change communication project to fight malaria.
Men, women, boys and girls brave their usual shyness and stand up to answer quizzes and questions posted by communication and public health experts from Cambodia’s National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control (CNM) and the international NGO Malaria Consortium to test their knowledge and understanding about malaria.
In contrast with the mostly blue-collared polo T-shirts worn by staff from CNM, Malaria Consortium and community leaders, about half a dozen monks in saffron robes watch and listen with great attention to how the villagers answer the questions and quizzes.
In fact, these monks are here with a reason. In the campaign to fight malaria, Buddhist monks have been involved to help educate villagers about malaria and how to protect themselves from the mosquito-borne disease.
It is here that Malaria Consortium and CNM, with the support of the World Health Organization’s Containment Project, pioneered an innovative behaviour change communication strategy called ‘Positive Deviance’ or PD. Three villages, Kampong Chamlang Leu, Ploav Praim Muy and Samsep, selected for the study were from Sampov Loun, a district of Battambang province.
The PD approach initiates community dialogue, respects local wisdom and provides social proof by identifying positive practices from within the community which ensure acceptance and expedite the process of behavior change. It allows community members to be active beneficiaries, engaged as full partners to play a role in their own health and protection from malaria.
“I preach Buddhism and teach people about malaria and dengue fever,” explains Venerable Pich Bunthoeun, the 45-year-old abbot of Serey Mongkul Pagoda. He adds: “The monks have a very important role to educate people about malaria.”
Venerable Buntheoun says people give more respect to the monks and will follow their advice when they tell them to do good things.
“When the monks say anything, people listen to them more than ordinary persons,” he says.
The abbot says he and other monks attended a three-day training seminar in Battambang province in April 2009 and learned various knowledge and skills on how people can prevent and get treatment for malaria.
The Venerable says he got enough knowledge to teach people and that people have also known a lot about the disease partly thanks to the teaching by the monks.
“I am happy that people and children have good health,” Venerable Bunthoeun says with a smile, adding that he hopes that he will continue the work to fight malaria.
Loch Yoeum, 60, says she has lived for 13 years in Komrieng District’s Takrey Commune, where Serey Mongkul Pagoda is located.
She says there used to be a lot of forests around these areas and that people were falling sick from malaria, including herself.
Yoeum says the monks have told people to clean the environment, sleep in mosquito nets and to wear long-sleeved shirts to avoid malaria.
“People are poor, so it will be more difficult if they get sick,” she explains.
The findings in Malaria Consortium’s report titled: “The ‘Positive Deviance’ approach to improve malaria outcomes among mobile and migrant workers in Cambodia” indicate that most of the community members and migrant workers believed that men especially mobile and migrant workers, ‘kamakor and kachport’, (corn collectors) are the high-risk group for malaria. The female mobile workers also noted that men are most vulnerable to get malaria as they work at night in the farm or forest.
The Malaria Consortium report, however, has several positive stories one of which is on a migrant worker’s wife.
“A migrant worker’s wife always pack a hammock net in her husband’s luggage, whenever he goes to the farm and reminds him, ‘Eing eing mon chol dek kom plech chang mong’ (Darling! Do not forget to use the bed‐net before you sleep to avoid malaria).”
Dr. Meas Tha, Deputy Director of the National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control (CNM), says malaria experts and campaigners would involve the monks to help educate people during big festivals such as the World Malaria Day and other national holidays.
He says the monks are more influential and people think that when the monks tell them to do anything they mean to advise them to go along the right path for their happiness.
“The monks are the role model for people to follow,” he says.