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Millions needed for TB fight in Cambodia

Millions needed for TB fight in Cambodia

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A woman with tuberculosis sits on a bed at the Siem Reap Provincial Hospital. Photograph: Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post

Although the number of deaths in the Kingdom from tuberculosis has halved in the past 20 years, a massive injection of funding and other support is still needed, officials said yesterday.

Speaking at the unveiling of the 2012 Joint Program Review of the National TB Control Program, Mao Tan Eang, director of the government’s National Centre for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control (CENAT), said the report shed light on a number of concerns and recommendations for the disease in Cambodia, which has one of the highest rates worldwide.

The number of TB deaths recorded in 1990 was 153 per 100,000 people, he said, while that number plunged to 61 per 100,000 in 2010.

However, he said financing the program remained an “immense challenge” and that about $20 million of funding per year would be required from donors and the government.

International co-ordinator for the review, Paul Nunn, said CENAT had succeeded in the past 10 years in doubling case findings, something no other developing country had done.

The review recommended the government build TB funding into other funding and implementation platforms, such as the maternal and child health model, which was covered by the government’s Health Equity Fund, “a brilliant scheme giving poor people access to health care”, he said.

Nunn said the biggest threat to the program apart from financial support was that too many groups were being deprived of diagnosis and treatment.

“There is a serious nexus of TB in prisons which needs to be addressed and the elderly have also been very much ignored in this area – their chances of contracting TB are seven times higher than the rest of the community,” he said.

The review pointed further blame at Kantha Bopha Childrens’ Hospital.

“Children with TB are underserved by the current program,” Nunn said. “Kantha Bopha is seeing many cases but is not engaging sufficiently with CENAT. Many of the children are not being referred on for follow-up treatment.”

But Dr Beat Richner, the hospital’s director, labelled the review a “catastrophe”, and remained irked Kantha Bopha was not invited to take part.

“Last year, we treated 22,000 children in our hospitals with TB, yet they do not want anything to do with us,” he said. “TB is the biggest problem in Cambodia for children; we have newborns infected by the mother during delivery.

“The problem with CENAT is that 85 per cent of children arrive in our hospitals, and the diagnosis of TB in children is quite different than in adults, and we treat the children with the most modern, international standard facilities.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Claire Knox at [email protected]

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