2017 CAMBODIA FIELD TRIP

12th to 22nd AUGUST 2017

Writers  Mr Ted Mlynarz & Dr William Trinh


“You may not be a person of importance, because you are a person you are important to us”

 

Poverty and suffering exist in all parts of the world. Organisations such as Australian Health Humanitarian Aid (AHHA) in collaboration with Rotary Club of Liverpool West, provide some relief to those who suffer with compassion, to help the blind to regain their treasured eyesight so that they can see their love ones, to be independent and productive to their community and to relieve dental pain for orphans, especially the disabled children so that they can smile, sleep and grow strong.

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Following months of planning, organising and fundraising, on 12 August 2017, a total of 120 AHHA volunteers consisted of doctors, nurses, dentists, optometrists, orthoptists, pharmacists and many other non medical personnel arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to commence a hectic week and a half of operations to relieve pain and suffering to patients, due to poverty and remoteness, would not have the opportunity to receive medical or dental attention or treatment.

Screening and organising in Cambodia had been carried out for several months by AHHA’s Cambodian partners, the Khmer Sight Foundation (KSF) and its volunteers, selecting patients from outlying villages and provinces for treatment. These consisted of the elderly who suffered from blindness due to cataract conditions and the young, orphaned and special needs children to be treated for dental and medical conditions.

Upon approaching by air into Phnom Penh, major flooding due to severe monsoonal conditions, was evident. This made it difficult and at time impossible for patients to be transported from outlying areas for treatment. As a result, the number of patients available for cataract operations was lower than expected taking into considering the number that had been screened prior to AHHA’s arrival.

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There was no rest for the AHHA volunteers. Arriving in Phnom Penh late on the 12th of August, it was straight to the hotel, a late supper and off to bed for an early wake-up call on Sunday for the teams to set up the operating theatres and dental facilities to commence work the next day. Early wake-up calls (5.30 am) were the standard for the rest of the field trip.

As the economy of Cambodia improves, so does the medical system. However, it is a very slow process and the poor continue to suffer mainly due to their remoteness and lack of transport and resources to travel to major centres for medical treatment.


The Eye and Medical team was located at the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital while the dental team was based at the University of Puthisastra Dental Clinic in Phnom Penh.

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Upon completion of establishing the cataract operating theatres and the dental clinics on Sunday 13th August, volunteers travelled to Chompa village (aka Wat Chompa), one of many remote and crowded villages along the Mekong River in Cambodia. On first impression they resembled refugee camps, the villagers are stateless and to not possess the necessary documentation to be recognised as citizens of either Cambodia or Vietnam. Due to lack of land, houses are built very close to each and many villagers live in floating houses on the river. Medical and Dental treatment were provided to the villagers and children as well as screening for cataract conditions, some of these villagers were transported to Phnom Penh to receive medical attention and cataract treatment.

 
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Knowledge transfer was also one of the important goals of AHHA’s field trip. Local doctors and students worked alongside with our volunteers in the surgical theatres as well as in the consulting rooms to learn new technology and share hand on experiences to improve outcomes and patient care. Because of the success of the Ophthalmology and Dental seminars during the 2016 field trip, both teams again conducted similar seminars providing information on the latest medical and dental procedures and information to the local medical and dental professionals. These seminars again proved popular and were enthusiastically attended. Local University Medical and Dental students will benefit from these seminars.

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With every AHHA field trip over the years, apart from medical, dental and cataract treatment, humanitarian help is also provided in an effort to improve the living conditions of the poor and disadvantaged. Due to severe flooding during monsoonal downpours, fresh, clean water has been difficult to come by. During this field trip, AHHA distributed a total of 600 water filters (with food parcels and some financial donations) in three locations in Cambodia. In Vietnam, over 1170 filters were distributed in two villages in Vinh Long (Mekong Delta) with the remaining filters, and a small financial donation, left with local temples for distribution to three remote locations where access to AHHA volunteers is limited.

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The filters provide around 10 litres of clean water, suitable for human consumption at a time and are reputed to last around 10 years subject to care and regular cleaning of the components.


The success and results achieved during the 2017 Field Trip could not have been achieved without the generosity and assistance from AHHA’s sponsors, volunteers, donors and service providers. Again, Alcon Australia with providing the necessary equipment and lenses for the cataract operations, Hai Son Shipping & Transport Pty Ltd for again arranging the shipping of equipment, medication and supplies to Cambodia.


To all the AHHA volunteers who were involved in activities throughout the year, whether it was attending regular meetings, fundraising events, packing activities and assisting with where necessary, the field trip would not be possible without you.


Mention should be made of the support and assistance provided by the Khmer Sight Foundation in Cambodia and its volunteers. Their hard work, enthusiasm, engagement and willingness to assist wherever possible, greatly contributed to the success of the mission.

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As small note to finish, a young Cambodian medical student volunteer was very interested in the medical instruments being used by an AHHA doctor. In Australian universities, training and familiarisation in the use of these instruments is provided almost immediately, the young student was very interested and inquisitive. Noticed by the AHHA doctor, the student was asked whether he had used these or had access to them at the university, the answer was negative. This surprised the doctor and as a result, upon completion of the field trip, the doctor presented his entire medical kit to the student who was overwhelmed with the gift. “All his birthdays had come at once”.

 

The following is a record of achievements during the 2017 Field Trip

EYE TEAM

Patients Screened 1715
Surgeries - Cataract 354
GP Medical consultations and medicines provided 800
Eye examinations 750
Prescription glasses 200
Sun glasses 1000

 

DENTAL TEAM

Patients Screened 607
Patients Treated 419
Total Procedures 1362

 

HUMANITARIAN AID

Total number of water filter kits distributed: 600 in Cambodia and 1176 in Viet Nam. Food parcels and financial donations also included.

 

MAP OF CAMBODIA