Much money and exposure has been given to the fight against infectious diseases such
as AIDs, but now a local NGO says it's time to focus on non-communicable diseases
that afflict tens of thousands of Cambodians.
"Where are the donors?" said Maurits van Pelt, executive director of the
NGO MoPoTsyo Patient Information Centre, which runs diabetes treatment programs.
"We deserve to be looked at too."
Van Pelt organized a march for diabetes on November 18 in Phnom Penh to highlight
diabetics' need for physical activity and a healthy diet. More that 450 participants
walked from Chaktomuk theatre to Independence Monument and then to Wat Phnom finally
returning to the theater for a diabetic lunch of fish amok and whole-grain rice.
Van Pelt said that five percent of adults in Cambodia over 25 suffer from diabetes.
"Many people die from it without knowing - they think it's a heart attack. There
should be 20,000 young people with the disease but they're dead."
Van Pelt, who headed Medecins Sans Frontieres in Cambodia from 1989 to 2000, said
other common non-communicable diseases in Cambodia are hypertension or high blood
pressure, and high cholesterol. The march was held to draw attention to the fact
that the diseases are treatable with diet and exercise.
Diabetics should not eat white rice but should eat whole grain rice, which gives
a more gradual release of carbohydrates into the person's system, said van Pelt.
He also advocated a urine-glucose strip that costs only 115 Riel.