Thailand may have to meet the cost of fighting drug-resistant malaria if international funding sources are cut, the head of the Disease Control Department says.
Global Funding of Innovation for Neglected Diseases, which has been providing funding to curb the spread of drug-resistant malaria on the borders with Cambodia and Myanmar, is cutting contributions, said Pornthep Siriwanarangsan, head of the Disease Control Department. The organisation is likely to pledge less funding to Thailand after 2015 due to the global economic crunch, Dr Pornthep said.
Southeast Asian countries facing the threat of drug-resistant malaria vowed at an international conference in Australia last month to fight the disease and improve therapeutic efficacy.
But a report released on Monday by a research group funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is also a main donor to the Global Fund, said governments in the region should be investing more in drug development, diagnostics and insecticides.
Dr Pornthep warned any drop in the Global Fund's support would jeopardise Thailand's efforts to fight the drug-resistant disease in the border regions.
There are thought to be about 50 drug-resistant malaria carriers for every 100,000 residents in the border districts in Tak opposite Myanmar and in areas opposite Cambodia's Pailin province. With the large number of malaria-infected migrants working in rubber plantations in Thailand, the disease could spread further if efforts to fight it are undermined, Dr Pornthep added.
The Global Fund meets the 200-million-baht cost of Thailand's malaria control work. This includes the cost of running 300 malaria control clinics nationwide, surveillance sites, and staff and volunteers who conduct regular random checks in risk areas.
Bureau of Vector-Borne Disease director Wichai Satimai said random blood checks would be carried out at rubber plantations and forestry areas.
"Loei, Bung Kan, Nakhon Si Thammrat and Surat Thani provinces, among others, are major rubber production areas which also serve as environments conducive for mosquitoes to spread the parasite from carriers of drug-resistant malaria," Dr Wichai said.
Villagers in 460 villages along the border have been trained and armed with malaria blood-test kits to help malaria unit officials monitor the disease.
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- Writer: Achara Ashayagachat