The Lake Clinic (TLC) takes healthcare by boat to floating villages on the Tonlé Sap Lake in Cambodia.
The team includes doctors, nurses, dentists and midwives. Health education focuses on nutrition, sanitation and maternity care.
TLC’s floating vegetable gardens boost meagre diets.

Project Focus

The primary focus of TLC is to provide these isolated villagers with competent and consistent health care comparable to what can be found in a well managed health center. The Lake Clinic seeks to mitigate the detrimental impact of preventable illnesses through early diagnosis of disease; treatment on an out-patient basis; referral to a hospital, assistance in transportation to the hospital when necessary, and health education.

The first floating clinic was launched in 2008. Today there are five floating clinics and a twn-engine catamaran that provides speedier access to the floating villages and can easily provide ambulance service.

The Lake Clinic Cambodia now has three doctors, three midwives, two registrars, two cooks and has expanded its reach across the lake to the Stung Sen River. When appropriate visiting professionals  join the team; doctors, dentists and physical therapists have successfully completed missions with TLC.

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This time-lapse video by volunteer Anette Wig shows the waiting area for the patients arriving at The Lake Clinic Cambodia’s floating clinic in Moat Klas village.

A story from the river

Thankfully, here at TLC, our staff is positively adapting to the challenging circumstances that they face at their watery (and now, quite muddy) workplace. They keep on doing a wonderful job. We have also been lucky to have some great volunteers come and work with us during these first few months of the year.

There are numerous stories that can be told from these isolated and remote areas. When working so closely with the villagers, we truly get to see, and take part in, both the good times and the bad. We are present and witness their personal and physical developments. Just like elsewhere, there are the stories of the sick who will not seek medical care, of those who will refrain from going to a hospital when they are advised to, those who will find their own ways of dealing with their illnesses. However, we are pleased to see that with our presence on the lake, there is a growing change of mindset, and thus also behavior, moving in a positive direction. Indeed, there are many stories, and some of them are highly worthy of being shared. This is the story of a baby boy who lives in the village connected to the clinic on the photo above.

In late December, a desperate mother, Heang, came to our clinic in Ksacrchearos village along the Stung Sen River.

Her tiny baby of no more than 7 days suffered from fever and pneumonia, and was critically ill. Our volunteer doctors at the time, Dr. Emily Whitaker and Dr. Bill Duke, and our own Dr. Kuch Kamsan, concluded that the baby would need to be taken to a hospital in order to survive. Despite their best efforts to convince the mother that this was the right thing to do, the mother refused. The only thing we could do at the time was to give paracetamol for the baby, and try to convince the family that he needed to be treated in a hospital. Heang and her husband live six kilometers downstream in the opposite direction of the provincial hospital. We hoped that they would take their baby there.

When we returned to the River Clinic the next week, the mother didn’t bring the baby back to us for a follow-up visit, as we had requested. TLC’s doctors, including a volunteer, Dr. Jameel (neonatologist), went to the family’s house in the evening. As they arrived, Heang admitted that they had not gone to the hospital. Even more concerning was the fact that the baby’s condition had worsened, albeit he was still alive.

The presence of all these visitors to an otherwise remote homestead did not go unnoticed by other villagers.  Soon there was a crowd gathered listening to the pleas of TLC’s staff and to the excuses of the mother and father. Sometimes, peer pressure can be a good thing. They finally agreed to go to the hospital. However, upon arrival, the hospital staff in Kompong Thom told them there was no hope for the baby as it was too small and sick. It appeared to have stopped breathing. Heang and her husband travelled back to the village with what they believed to be their dead baby boy.

Miraculously enough, when they came back to the village, the baby started breathing. Immediately, they came to the River Clinic. The antibiotics that the baby had been given by Dr. Jameel were working, and the tiny boy was beginning to look more comfortable. He was severely malnourished, dehydrated, and needed support that could only be provided in a hospital. This time, the family readily agreed to our suggestions. Ultimately, we took the mother and her baby to the Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap, where they would spend three days.

Ever since, this little baby boy, has been one of the top priorities of the River Team. Every week, his height and weight is measured, and we give him a full medical check-up. Heang has struggled to breastfeed him, and they could not afford infant formula. TLC has therefore been supplying formula, and has also been educating the family about preparing the milk and cleaning the baby bottles hygienically, in order to support his first few months. Moreover, we brought the family clothing which had been kindly donated to us.

For each time the River Team sees him, he looks healthier and happier. This is noticeably reflected in his mother. The photo above was taken on April 6th, and the change from December is quite remarkable. Needless to say, we are very proud that this little boy has survived and is now doing so well. That is what keeps us going!