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Project launched to combat TB among workers from Thailand

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Cambodian workers cross the border into Thailand at the Daung International Check Point in Battambang province. Heng Chivoan

Project launched to combat TB among workers from Thailand

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the Cambodian National Centre for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control (Cenat) have launched a three-year project to diagnose tuberculosis (TB) among Cambodian migrants returning from Thailand.

The project, funded by the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria, is expected to provide screening, diagnosis, health education and referral support to more than 100,000 migrants over the next three years, IOM said.

IOM said large numbers of Cambodian migrant workers crossed the border to work in Thailand, with many experiencing poor working and living conditions, as well as limited access to healthcare, making them especially vulnerable to TB.

Under the project, the Poipet Migrant Transit Centre will provide health education, onsite digital X-ray services and referral support for suspected TB cases, as well as rapid molecular diagnosis.

It will follow up to ensure those diagnosed with the disease have access to treatment through Cambodia’s national TB programme at their final destination.

IOM said the project was part of a regional Global Fund grant implemented across Greater Mekong Subregion countries to address TB in migrants and mobile populations. It would also offer services to the local community.

“This project and the collaboration with Cenat are critically important to ensure that migrants and, in particular, undocumented and irregular migrants, are not left behind in the pursuit of the global health goal of ending TB for all.

“Collectively, governments,civil society and communities will only be able to achieve universal health coverage if no one is left behind,” said Dr Patrick Duigan, IOM regional migration health adviser for Asia and the Pacific.

He said to eliminate TB, it must be ensured that migrants and mobile populations were included in public health efforts.

Cenat director Mao Tan Eang said the service would be free for migrant workers. People living in the area were also welcome to access the service should they suspect they had contracted TB or showed symptoms such as coughing for more than two weeks, sweating at night, fever and weight loss.

He said the Poipet Migrant Transit Centre will be equipped with lung scanners and molecular diagnosis machines to test phlegm, with nurses on standby.

“We have both human and material resources. Patients can get medicine at any Cenat branch across the country. So if we find that someone has TB, we can tell them to get their medicine either in Poipet or elsewhere. We have a network available to bring the medicine to them,” Tan Eang said.

He said the TB mortality rate had decreased by 58 per cent between 2000 and 2018, while the number of people diagnosed had dropped by around 48 per cent. He said the number of TB sufferers five years ago was around 50,000, but this number had dropped to some 30,000.

“The TB situation in Cambodia is low compared to countries that have a TB problem because we have worked hard to fight the disease,” Tan Eang said.

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