Mom Neth, from Oslev village in Cambodia, is 20 years old and a recently qualified VMW or Volunteer Malaria Worker. Each day she goes to the homes of people suspected of having malaria. She conducts blood tests and, if needed, administers medicines. She also educates people about malaria and how to use bed nets properly.
Her job is critical in this part of Cambodia, close to the Thai border. The area has been the epicentre of malaria drug resistance on more than one occasion; first to chloroquine during the first global malaria eradication campaign in the 1950s and 1960s and, more recently, to artemisinin and its partner drugs – the current standard of care.
Malaria has a big impact on the community in Oslev village – patients fall ill time and again as the parasite develops resistance to each medicine used to treat it.
“When someone gets malaria, they can’t earn any money to support their family,” Mom explains. Today, some patients in the village are taking longer to get better after artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) than they used to. “After 3 days of treatment, some patients still feel weak and continue to have fevers,” Mom continues.
It is clear that the malaria parasite is growing resistant to the drugs being used against it. As some ACTs are taking longer to cure Mom’s patients she often needs to give them alternative ACTs. Mom and other health-care workers in the region are concerned that the day may soon come when all ACTs stop working altogether and they will have nothing left to treat their patients.
We have to be prepared for that day, with treatments developed from new chemical compounds that are effective against resistant strains and easier to take. It’s the only way to ensure Mom’s patients and others suffering from malaria around the world can continue to be cured from this deadly disease.