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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NGO gives local clinic old medicine

NGO gives local clinic old medicine

A BATCH of medicine just days away from its expiry date was given to a Phnom

Penh health clinic by an Asian NGO in what authorities say could be a

scam.

The chief of the Municipal Health Service Pharmacy Office, Yim

Yann, told the Post he wanted to complain about the incident to the Prime

Ministers.

About 400 packs of antibiotics were given to the Teuk Thla

Health Care Center in Phnom Penh in early February by a Singaporean-based NGO

called New Life Foundation.

The clinic was told they were receiving the

medicine in early February but discovered that the expiry date of the medicine

was March.

The clinic sent the medicine on to the pharmacy office - who

did not know about the arrangement - and it was immediately destroyed by

burning.

Though gifted, the clinic was told when they received the

medicine that it was worth $5,000.

Yin Yann said that some medicines -

especially medicines so close to their expiry dates - could be obtained by NGOs

either free, or at a greatly reduced price.

"If they buy the medicine

cheaply and give it away, they can report to their budget donors that they

bought the medicine at the same price as newly produced medicine, which is so

much more expensive," Yann said.

Yann also explained how dangerous

expired medicine was for users.

The Post tried contacting the New Life

Foundation by telephone and personally but could get no answers.

The Post

was first told that "the chief" was in a meeting. After waiting outside the NGO

house - which had no signs - two staff members came out and began

arguing.

"Why are you here?" asked one. Another said his boss had gone

out and had no phone.

When the Post described the incident of the expired

medicine and asked for comment, the first man said: "Why do you have to question

about this and why do you have to write the story?"

The man said: "I

don't know about that and who told you?" When shown Yann's card, he said "do not

believe what people say so much."

The Post said that it had witnessed the

expiry dates on the medicine packs, but still the men would not

answer.

One of the men whispered to the Post during the interview - which

became argumentative - that his companion was a doctor.

Yann said: "I

have suspected for a long time that NGOs are providing us with what we really

don't need."

"It unbelievable that they give us medicines that can only

be used within one month," he said

He said he was surprised when he saw

the report that says the medicine cost $5,000.

Yann said he just realized

the medicine was bad when center officials returned it to him.

Yann said

that an official working at the Teuk Thla Health Center told him they were

afraid to use the old medicine, so they returned it.

Yann said a

Ministry of Health cooperation committee - of which he was a member - had been

set up to coordinate with NGOs about what health centers need but it was

ignored.

In some cases NGOs did not report to the Ministry of Health

what their projects were, he said.

They did everything without

consultation then reported the amount of money they had spent, he

said.

"The other problem is that the aid is not what we are needing... it

is not in the right target," he said.

"If they want to help us faithfully

they should ask us what we need," he said.

"There will probably be the

same thing in other institutions."

"Aid can be valuable if only donors

cooperate with recipients and ask what they really want."

During

pre-UNTAC time, some NGOs - Yann cited two as Renaissance de Cambodge and

Pharmaciens Sans Frontier - also gave medicines that were almost at their

expiry.

He said in developed countries living standards were high, so

when they became ill they were able to afford newly produced medicines from

their doctors. Medicines that were almost expired were

destroyed.

Cambodia needed immediate help, he said. NGOs provided older

medicines that should be used very quickly.

In this case, however, there

was too much medicine to use, and no time to use it before it expired, but it

was given nonetheless.

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