In Cambodia, It’s a Bad Year for Dengue Fever  

Amir Khasru of the VOA Bangla Service contributed to this report.KRAYEA COMMUNE, KAMPONG THOM PROVINCE, CAMBODIA — The babies are crying, coughing as they vomit.Each parent holds one of the 8-month-old twins. Their daughters tested positive for the potentially lethal and almost always painful dengue fever.Lang Chanthoeun says she doesn’t have money yet to get treatment for Pheak Sonisa and Pheak Somatha. “I tried to borrow money from relatives but they didn’t have any,” she said.“Last night, I couldn’t sleep,” said the 35-year-old mother of six who lives in a poor rural area of Cambodia’s Kampong Thom province on the central lowlands of the Mekong River. The local rubber plantations in the province’s Santuk district shelter mosquitos, making it a center of this year’s dengue outbreak.The government should consider providing a treatment center in the province so villagers don’t need to travel, said Meas Nee who holds a doctorate in sociology and international social work from Australia’s La Trobe University.According to a 2008 article in the International Journal for Equity in Health, “High rates of hospitalization and mortality from dengue fever among infants and children reflect the difficulties that women continue to face in finding sufficient cash in cases of medical emergency, resulting in delays in diagnosis and treatment.”“Regardless of whether they used a public or private facility, villagers reported spending on average US$34.50 and up to US$150 for a single episode of dengue,” wrote Sokrin Khun and Lenore Manderson in their article, Some villagers look after children who have been diagnosed with dengue fever at a private health clinic in the village, June 2019. (Sun Narin/VOA Khmer)In Kampong Thom province’s Krayea commune, many babies and young children have received dengue treatment in local private clinics and from state-run hospitals in the province. A few of them have been treated at the reputable A villager drives a tractor past a private health clinic in Kampong Thom province’s Krayea commune, where children diagnosed with dengue fever stay for treatment, June 2019. (Sun Narin/VOA Khmer)Since 2006, the Cambodian government has run a program offering free health care at public facilities. Those who are eligible receive Equity Cards, known colloquially, and predictably, as “poverty cards,” which must be presented to tap into benefits.But more than a decade after the program began with help from the German and Australian governments, many people remain frustrated and confused about the criteria used to allocate the cards and the benefits bestowed on their holders.Neither Pin Roeun nor Chun Mom are in the program. That means they don’t have the card for the poorest of the poor.Lang Chanthoeun said she qualified for the program but has yet to receive a card.Srey Sin, who heads the Kampong Thom province department of health, said more than three times as many people have shown up at local hospitals for dengue fever treatment in 2019 compared with last year.“We treat them for free if they have the poverty card,” he said. “Our staffs have tried their best to treat them even though there are a lot of people.”Lang Chanthoeun’s husband took the twins to a state-run hospital in the province after they were diagnosed with dengue at the local clinic.Hak Sopheak, 37, said he spent $25 each for treatment of Pheak Sonisa and Pheak Somatha but wasn’t pleased.“It took my daughters getting worse for the medical staff to get them treatment,” he said. “Before that, they did not receive good care.”

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