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