More than 70 monks and nuns joined over a hundred village health workers and government officials yesterday in a malaria education march around the fringes of Cambodia’s western border with Thailand, the area with the country’s highest rate of drug resistance to the mosquito-borne disease.
The demonstration intended to educate migrant workers, who face an increased risk of contracting the disease because they travel from remote provinces where the disease is less rampant and are less likely to have the antibodies to fight it.
The Pailin deputy of the Ministry of Religion, Som Sarouen, said the five-day religious procession would hold a lot of sway with the locals and migrant workers, who trust and respect the clergy.
The monks will offer malaria education sessions across farms and villages, while government workers will diagnose and treat patients, he said.
“A combination of the migrant workers’ lack of knowledge of the risks and their low levels of immunity make them more susceptible to serious infection,” said Song Ngak, technical director of FHI 360, a development organisation working on the project.
Char Meng Chuor, director of the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control said that sub-standard and fake anti-malaria medication was a major concern.
World Health Organization epidemiologist Steven Bjorge said the Ministry of Health had flagged the possibility of restricting anti-malarials to the private sector.
“That would help the case against substandard and fake drugs,” he said.
In the first seven months of this year, Cambodians had 42,000 cases of malaria and at least 30 deaths, a decrease of 23 per cent compared with last year, which had 55,000 cases. In Pailin, about 26 per cent of malaria cases have been drug resistant this year, up from 10 per cent in 2010.