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EC positive as its malaria program ends

EC positive as its malaria program ends

The European Commission said it was optimistic for the future of its malaria program

after it handed control to the Ministry of Health on December 10.

EC co-director Roberto Garcia said the system established under the program had ensured

more people had access to treatments using a mix of the existing public health system

and the private sector.

"It's a social marketing approach," said Garcia. "Health care can

be accessed through the private sector until you can build up the public sector.

It's a complementary national strategy."

The EC ended its malaria control program at a symposium in Siem Reap where it passed

the reins to Minister of Health Dr Hong Sun Huot. The program has recorded a 57 percent

drop in malaria cases over the past five and a half years. The EC stated that the

number of deaths caused by malaria had dropped to 211 in the first nine months of

2002 compared with 865 in 1997.

The public/private mix was introduced two years ago after research showed the public

sector was unable to treat malaria on its own. Patients were still relying heavily

on private sector medical care, which was often both ineffective and inappropriate.

Surveys had shown that 70 percent of private pharmacies sold some counterfeit drugs.

Many cases were incorrectly diagnosed, which led to pharmacists prescribing the wrong

drugs.

Garcia said the program had introduced efficient, affordable drugs to the private

market.

"We have already captured 25 percent of the market. [The drug] Malarine has

become a national brand," he said.

The distribution of Malarine will now be run by Population Services International

(PSI). Technical health advisor Lisa Firth said the NGO hoped to expand the service

further.

"There is still a big problem of fake drugs out there," she said. "We

also need to ensure there is compliance of the three full-day courses of the drugs,

and we hope to expand the ring of treatment. Currently the drugs are only available

for adolescents and adults, which is a big problem."

Minister Hong Sun Huot said much work remained.

"We have made progress but the mosquito is still there so we will continue to

fight malaria," he said. "We will continue our aim to reduce morbidity

and mortality."

Garcia said he was optimistic about leaving the program in the government's hands,

particularly if the National Malaria Center continued to react quickly to situations.

"It is important to be able to change the national protocol and have the capacity

to act quickly, and this is where Cambodia has been very good over the past three

years," Garcia said. "Sometimes it really happens, sometimes it really

works, and on this occasion that is the case."

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