Journalism Fellows Get Rare, Up-Close View of the Battle Against Malaria in Cambodia
Malaria No More/International Center for Journalists fellows got the chance to meet with frontline workers in the fight against malaria when they traveled to Cambodia as part of their reporting fellowship trip in November of this year.
Their first stop was a public-private health clinic in the Tbong Khmom province, where providers are trained in early diagnosis and treatment of malaria, as well as quality assurance and surveillance methods. As one of nearly 400 facilities in the Population Services Khmer (PSK) network, the clinic receives subsidized, quality-assured malaria medicines to distribute to patients. PSK, an independent NGO that is supported by the global health organization PSI, complements and strengthens Cambodia’s public health infrastructure by expanding access to malaria treatments.
The journalism fellows met with the clinic’s director, Rung Bungkok, who said the facility had treated 48 malaria cases so far that year. A few minutes after beginning their interview, the fellows got to see Bungkok in action. A patient who suspected he had malaria came into the clinic and told Bungkok that he’d tried to treat his fever with a cocktail of pills he received from a pharmacy that was not associated with the government or PSK. When his symptoms persisted, a friend referred him to this clinic. Bungkok immediately performed a rapid diagnostic test that confirmed the patient was positive for P. falciparum. He followed protocol by prescribing an antimalarial drug and stressing the importance of taking the full course of treatment.
The second stop of the Cambodia tour was at a plantation that produces rubber, which is a major economic driver for the country. The journalists met with plantation workers who discussed how malaria had affected their lives and the well-being of their families. They also met with Thim Eng Sreang, a community health worker who was trained and given supplies by PSK to treat patients right on the plantation.
Sreang and his colleagues who work on the hundreds of rubber plantations throughout Cambodia are a critical resource for fast, quality-assured access to rapid diagnostic tests and artemisinin-based combination therapies whenever a fever arises among plantation workers and their families. Timely treatment of malaria—when the primary symptom is still just a fever—is critical to preventing its much more severe effects. Sreang said he had treated eight cases so far this year and had given many more diagnostic tests.