Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Questions linger on outbreak readiness

Questions linger on outbreak readiness

Community members wait for their names to be called outside of a medical clinic in Battambang’s Sangke district as a doctor hands out result sheets from HIV tests in 2014.
Community members wait for their names to be called outside of a medical clinic in Battambang’s Sangke district as a doctor hands out result sheets from HIV tests in 2014. Heng Chivoan

Questions linger on outbreak readiness

As the government launches an investigation into a cluster of HIV cases in Kandal province’s Peam village, officials insist that Cambodia has learned from past incidents and is adequately prepared to respond to any outbreak, though some observers yesterday questioned their optimism.

Officials from the Ministry of Health and the WHO yesterday said that changes implemented in the wake of the Roka commune HIV outbreak – which saw more than 250 cases uncovered – as well as improvements to the country’s health care infrastructure already in the works, have strengthened the Kingdom’s capacity to deal with infectious diseases.

“In case of any outbreak, we can respond to it immediately,” said Dr Ly Sovann, a Health Ministry spokesman and director of its Department of Communicable Disease Control.

After the 2014 Roka outbreak, the ministry began efforts to proactively find new HIV patients and offer treatment, said Dr Ly Penh Sun, director of the National Center for HIV, AIDS, Dermatology and STDs. Of an estimated 74,000 HIV/AIDs patients, almost 80 per cent are now receiving treatment, he said, dramatically reducing the possibility of outbreaks.

Since 2012, Cambodia has also been introducing more general measures to better enable it to respond to public health risks as part of an international framework that went into force in 2007, according to Vicky Houssiere, WHO communications officer in Cambodia.

Houssiere said the plan included measures “to support effective coordinated preparedness and response, such as surveillance, laboratories, infection and control”.

However, officials declined to offer much in the way of specific steps taken to improve responses, leaving some to question the government’s commitment.

US-trained doctor Quach Mengly said that at its core, Cambodia’s system for educating doctors remains weak.

“Training for doctors in Cambodia is very short,” he said. “And once they are out, they want to be their own boss, but because of that, everybody can do whatever they want . . . It creates a system of chaos.”

Sophal Ear, author of Aid Dependence in Cambodia who has done research on infectious disease control in Cambodia, put it more succinctly.

“Cambodia doesn’t even have adequate health infrastructure for existing everyday health care problems,” he said via email. “How would it have infrastructure necessary to deal with massive outbreaks?”

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Hun Sen: Manet to be candidate for prime minister

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has reaffirmed that his oldest son Hun Manet will be his successor as Prime Minister if he is elected. Speaking during the inauguration of a new sewage treatment facility in Preah Sihanouk province on December 2, Hun Sen said Manet will be