UN offers praise for health reforms, advises others

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Booster shots being administered in Phnom Penh’s Stung Meanchey district on Wednesday. Heng Chivoan

The UN in Cambodia expressed support and praised the government’s commitment to improving public health during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a press statement on October 13, it said the pandemic in Cambodia has disrupted all corners of society, including the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of communities.

The challenges responding to the pandemic are similar across countries, including dealing with the variants of the coronavirus, making the transmission among young, healthy and mobile adults difficult to detect.

“However, these challenges have also brought opportunities to the health system and beyond, and the investment in these opportunities will have a ripple effect for years to come,” it said.

The UN said the Cambodian government has been taking the opportunity to work for the future by investing in the health security system to ensure both a stronger response and a more prepared, resilient system.

“The United Nations commends the Royal Government of Cambodia’s commitments to promote public health and has supported it throughout the pandemic with policy advice, technical cooperation in line with the World Health Organisation’s technical guidelines, coordination of partners and agencies, training and procurements,” it said.

Throughout the pandemic, the UN said the organisation and working partners had supported the Ministry of Health to expand the diagnostic capacity of laboratories with technical advice, testing strategies, training, and procurement of more than $2 million. By September, a total of 12 laboratories could test 12,000 samples per day, compared with a single laboratory which could test only 500 samples per day in early last year.

“These investments will advance the country’s ability to detect new variants of SARS-CoV-2 and other novel pathogens that may emerge,” it said.

The UN also said it had worked with development partners to support the health ministry in strengthening local capacity for detecting transmission in the field, assessing risk, and responding to outbreaks. Around 3,000 Rapid Response Team (RRT) members were trained last year on Covid-19 to support the response.

“They participated in on-the-job training lasting four to six weeks at the health ministry’s Communicable Disease Control Department. These trained RRT members now serve as contact-tracing and surveillance leads in the provinces,” according to the press release.

It also procured critical supplies, such as personal protective equipment, at the cost of $1.8 million and essential medicines and equipment for oxygen support at $820,000 to aid that expansion.

It also assisted capacity building efforts for frontline healthcare workers, including critical care providers, in clinical management and infection, prevention and control measures.

The UN has given some recommendations for the government to deal with as ongoing transmission still brings the threat of new variants appearing at any time.

“The UN urges continued investment in provincial surveillance and response systems to enable provinces to detect cases more quickly and respond to clusters with targeted, localised measures, which will help minimise economic and social disruptions,” it said.