Standing under the shade of a cassava barn is Khem Bou, a 17-year-old mother of two from Kampong Cham province. Every day she sleeps with her children on a makeshift bed made of wooden planks, but this hasn’t driven them away from this temporary home.
“Since it became difficult to find work in my hometown, my husband and I relocated our family to find new opportunities in Pailin province. We found a job on this cassava farm and have been working here for a month. We heard that where we live now is a high risk malaria area, but we have no other choice. Although we do not know much about malaria, we know that if we get sick, there is one village malaria worker nearby who we can seek for advice. We also received these mosquito nets from the village malaria worker.”
Khem Bou and her family are among the country’s poorest. Those living below the poverty line (about 17 percent of the population) are often forced to give up the chance of receiving basic education to work and supplement their families’ income. Many are living under poor hygienic conditions and have limited knowledge of disease and how to protect themselves. Khem Bou’s family is also at high risk of getting malaria and thereby spreading the drug resistant parasite. Like many other mobile and migrant families, their itinerant lifestyles make them difficult to reach with malaria control interventions.
In response to these challenges, Malaria Consortium has been working closely with the Cambodian National Malaria Control Program (CNM) and the Provincial Health Department to carry out malaria control activities with a specific focus on people at risk in Pailin province, where high levels of resistance to antimalarial drugs have been identified by CNM and the World Health Organization.
With funding from the UK government, the community health network in 68 villages in Pailin province will be strengthened and village malaria workers (VMW) will be trained to provide early diagnosis and treatment for malaria.
Leap Sivmeng, a VMW in Pailin, participated in the refresher training with Malaria Consortium.
“My father used to suffer from malaria. He almost died because we did not have enough money to see the doctor and treat him. So I volunteered to get the education necessary to help my family. It has been three years already since I started working as a VMW. I have been helping not only my family but also the villagers in the community.”
This training is part of the VMW project framework, which is designed to equip VMWs and enhance their education and technical skills to perform rapid diagnosis tests for malaria and provide treatment according to the national treatment guidelines. They are trained to detect and report any new cases found. Supportive supervision from Malaria Consortium’s field technical staff is provided on a regular basis to keep them motivated and reinforce what they learnt during the training.
So Sam Art, a 57 year old VMW from Pailin province, explained how what he learnt helped him make a better diagnosis.
“There was one new case of malaria I detected in April this year. Normally, when a patient visits me, I ask about their symptoms and history and check their temperature. If I suspect they have malaria, I will do the blood test. If the patient has malaria, then I will give them the medicine.
Leap Sivmeng and So Sam Art are among the frontline VMWs who can help provide primary health services directly to community members and connect with mobile populations in the area. Their work is an important part of malaria control efforts among the most vulnerable and high risk groups.
Cambodia aims to move towards pre-elimination of malaria across the country with special efforts to contain artemisininresistant p .falciparum malaria by the end of 2015, and achieve phased elimination of all forms by 2025.
Wanweena Tangsathianraphap is External Communications Officer for Asia