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Information first step to health

The admission's book at Kompong Speu hospital lists the most common reasons for treatment.

Traffic accidents top the list, followed by mine injuries, TB, malaria, abdominal

surgery, childbirth complications and gastric ulcers.

"Many Cambodians have digestive problems and never seem able to put on any weight,"

said a health worker at the hospital.

Displaced people suffer mostly from diarrhea and fever, eye infections, skin diseases,

malaria, measles and malnutrition.

There are also dysentery, giardia, tropical roundworms, tapeworms and scabies, as

well as sexually transmitted diseases, which can affect the new-born.

"Unless gonococcal eye infection is diagnosed and treated in the first day or

two after birth, the child will be blind,"she said.

A study in 1990-91 found 50 percent of Cambodians self-medicate, and there is considerable

misuse and over-use of drugs.

"Women will react to information to keep well, but they are starved of information

and need to talk about the dangers of bad medication," she said.

"Given the low literacy rate for women [22 percent, compared to 46 percent for

men], information on the radio is badly needed."

The health situation is not helped by bogus pharmacists who rarely know what drugs

are stored on their shelves. Regulation and licensing are promised.



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