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OT&P and M’Lop Tapang

OT&P first became involved with M'Lop Tapang in 2008. As an organisation we already supported a number of social projects, we had some funds to donate and we realised that we could use our skills to leverage the impact of that money. We were very lucky to find M’Lop Tapang, a small charity in Sihanoukville Cambodia, that was 5 years old at the time. M’Lop Tapang had begun as a simple initiative to feed and offer safety to six children who slept under a large Tapang tree on the beach every night. It quickly blossomed into a much wider program, in 2008 they had just opened a small medical centre.

Reflections From Dr Tim Trodd

First Impressions and Challenges

At my first visit I was shocked at what seemed like an overwhelming number of children with varying degrees of malnutrition and illnesses, both acute and chronic. Back then we would go out to the camps and put a tarpaulin on the ground and set up an al fresco clinic, if it rained, we would find shelter under a hut on stilts. The conditions contributed to the level of disease was zero sanitation and the water was from unclean shallow wells. Personally it seemed surreal to be working like that only a day after being in my OT&P office in Hong Kong. I was impressed by what a positive and effective organisation M’Lop Tapang are and how much they changed the lives of these kids for the better.


Focus on Nutrition and Health Improvement

In those early days we mainly focused on nutrition. An inpatient program was set up, that still runs today, for children with severe malnutrition. This program intensively treats these very medically vulnerable kids using the WHO guidelines. We tested children with lesser degrees of malnutrition and found them to be particularly lacking in Zinc and Omega 3 fatty acids. Sourcing Zinc Sulphate in bulk was easy and we managed to produce Omega 3 by making Coconut oil in the M’Lop Tapang kitchens using a traditional Khmer technique. We found that these supplements would quickly and effectively improve the kids’ immunity.

All the time this was being actioned the M’Lop Tapang medical team had to deal with a stream of illnesses such as HIV, TB, measles and Dengue. The nearest full service hospital was in Phnom Penh, a difficult 5 hour taxi ride away, so acutely ill kids were either treated locally or stabilised for transfer.

After the first few visits we started some other projects, David Owens went to study the prevalence of TB which required active treatment. This allowed them to have a clearer view and strategy for dealing with this endemic problem. Other projects included education on indoor cooking with wood, a cause of asthma and chest infections in children. We also helped with policies and procedures for the clinic along the lines of the ones that we have at OT&P.


Evolution of Sihanoukville and M’Lop Tapang

Over the years Sihanoukville and M’Lop Tapang have evolved. Because of Covid I have just visited for the first time since 2019, there are huge changes. There is now a highway from Phnom Penh that takes 2 hours, an airport and there are far more developed local hospitals and medical facilities. However, the demand for M’Lop Tapang's services is as strong as ever. Even with the increased development challenges remain. According to UNICEF undernutrition is widespread, 32 percent of Cambodian children under 5 years of age have stunted growth and/or development, while 10 percent suffer from wasting.

M'Lop Talang found that they were caring for many children with disabilities and set up a Special Needs Program. When I visited 10 years ago there were 10 children in a small facility, which has grown to provide services for 80 children and at least another 20 on the waiting list. M’Lop Tapang is still the only facility offering services for Special Needs children in Sihanoukville. The children in the program mostly have  Autism, Cerebral Palsy and genetic diseases such as Downs Syndrome. The staff do a fantastic job meeting this demand, however, there is a need for support in the areas of Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy and Speech Therapy and, of course funding. 


Reflections and Future Goals

The past 15 years have flown by. It has been a privilege for us to help M’Lop Tapang on their journey, if only in a small way. Going forward we will be looking to help their special needs program and, of course, help them raise funds so that they can continue to provide services for the underprivileged children of Sihanoukville.

Donate to M’lop Tapang


Topics: News & Press Releases, General Practice / Family Medicine

Dr Tim Trodd

Dr Tim Trodd

Family Medicine, Functional Medicine, General Practice