The Globe as you know it is changing.
Coming June 2019

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To understand more about why you are so important to our member-supported initiative, we encourage you to read the following from our managing editor ~ Read more

The Globe as you know it is changing.

Since 2007, Southeast Asia Globe has been a space for some of the region’s best writers and photographers to take our readers behind the headlines into the stories that shape people’s lives. Every month, you could expect to pick up our latest print edition and find high-quality journalism, analysis and artwork waiting on every page. And since 2007, we’ve fought to uphold our promise of quality and independence to you, our readers.

But, like we said, the world is changing. Print publications just aren’t reaching the audiences they need to fulfil their promise of informing, educating and entertaining the public. Advertisers continue to invest in digital platforms while printing costs creep ever higher. Print may not be dead, but it’s fighting for its life. And we’re tired of waiting by a sickbed for its condition to improve. We want to be present at the birth of something new.

That’s why Southeast Asia Globe is relaunching as a member-driven platform featuring daily long-form features combining world-class journalism with enthralling art design and data-centered tech. Through our core pillars – Power, Money, Life and Earth – we are focusing in on the central issues that our readers have always engaged with most, with the same in-depth coverage of politics, business, social affairs and the environment that you’ve come to expect since 2007.

But leaving print behind us doesn’t just save our backs from lugging stacks of magazines across Southeast Asia. It opens up a global readership who don’t just want to read the news, but have a say in the stories that we tell and the way that we tell them. We’re not asking you to take out another magazine subscription – our stories are open to all. What we’re offering our members is a space where they can pitch and vote on the stories that they think deserve to be told. We want to inspire an engaged and active community of members who vote for, comment on and contribute to the stories that matter most to them. We want to work with our members to curate the way they engage with the news – not just as readers, but as an active extension of our editorial team.

That’s how we’re changing to bring you great stories. Here’s how we’re not.

We’re independent. Always have been, always will be. We’re not owned by any corporation or aligned with any state. We choose the stories that we tell, and the way that we tell them.

We’re creative. We’re not interested in churning out breaking news stories on the hour, every hour. We believe that the best stories are the ones that come alive on the page, digging deeper into the issues that shape Southeast Asia – and bringing you along for the ride. From our dedicated designers to our new software development team, our commitment is to constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways of reaching out to our readers.

We’re open. Challenging governments, NGOs and businesses to be transparent with the public means nothing if we keep our own readers in the dark. That’s why we will be completely open about why we tell the stories that we tell – and how we pay for them. Work with us to build something that endures where many media fail, and decide with us exactly where that money is going.

Above all, we’re optimistic. And yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Faced with impending climate collapse, the rise of right-wing authoritarian governments across the world, widening wealth and income inequality and deepening divisions rooted in race or gender or creed, it’s hard not to open the papers and feel the weight of the world pressing down. But we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t believe that when people work together, they can make their little corner of the world a more just, open and equal place.

And that’s why we can’t do this without you. We believe that across the globe is a community of people who care deeply about social justice, environmental action and press freedom – and who will join in to help make those ideals a reality. We’re not just holding our hand out – we need your voice to play a vital role in building Southeast Asia Globe into a leading space for progressive causes in the region. Tell us what stories the mainstream media is missing. Share with us the causes that matter most to you, and how we can champion those causes not just across Southeast Asia, but the world.

Our vision is clear. By 2025, we want to be recognised for building a great space for outstanding journalists from across the region to explore new ways of telling Southeast Asia’s most vital stories. Let’s bring together a community of engaged and loyal members who want to help reshape the media rather than just read it. And we want to reach a point where our readers, not advertisers, are the ones working to support our shared vision of an inclusive media.

We can’t do this without you. Let’s get together and build something that we all believe in.

If you’re interested in joining us, sign up to our newsletter, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter. And watch this space.

Healthcare / Southeast Asia’s race to combat growing cancer crisis

By: Cristyn Lloyd - Posted on: May 21, 2018 | Cambodia

Cancer claimed an estimated 1.2 million lives in Southeast Asia in 2012, making it the region’s number one killer. And rates are predicted to skyrocket 40% by 2030. Governments are finally addressing this ongoing health crisis, forcing medical professionals to play catchup in building quality cancer care systems

A presenter shows a self-sampling device for cervical cancer. The device costs about $100 Photo: Pattanapong Hirunard / AFP

In a stark white office on the second floor of the newly inaugurated National Cancer Centre (NCC) in Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital, Eav Sokha, director of the centre, sits jovially sketching a rough map of the Kingdom on a scrap of paper. “In the future, we expect to establish a national cancer network triangle,” he says with a smile, pointing at the NCC and two future centres planned in Siem Reap and the northeastern region of the country. “That is our dream. With these three cancer centres established, the goal is to cover 70% of our total cancer patient population.”

The groundbreaking NCC, a $36m project that opened at the beginning of this year, is one of only two facilities where cancer patients in the Kingdom can receive treatment. The other, Phnom Penh’s Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, could treat only about 500 out of 15,000 cases per year. The NCC can currently treat 1,000 new cases per year, with a goal of 2,000.

More than 14 million people worldwide were diagnosed with cancer in 2012, a figure that is expected to come close to 25 million over the next two decades, with the burden falling overwhelmingly on low- and middle-income countries, according to the 2014 World Cancer Report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which forms part of the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is estimated that about 60% of global cancer incidence occurs in developing countries, and rates across Southeast Asia are expected to surge in the coming years, reaching levels 40% higher by 2030 than those in 2012.

Faced with ill-equipped infrastructure and limited resources, as well as nascent healthcare systems, Asean nations must act fast to combat a rising health crisis. A 2015 report by the George Institute for Global Health examined the economic impact of cancer in eight Asean countries: of the 10,000 first-time cancer patients monitored over the course of a year, more than 75% of them either died or faced economic catastrophe within that same year, their suffering compounded by low socioeconomic status, lack of insurance and late-stage diagnosis.

Aldi Suganda Rizal (2-years-old) smoking a cigarette while playing at the family home in Sekayu district, South Sumatera, Indonesia on May 23, 2010 Photo: Ardiles Rante

One cause of the upsurge in cancer cases comes as a natural result of economic development, particularly increasing life expectancies and changing lifestyle habits coupled with poor hygiene, says WHO. Yet experts recommend taking the apparent incidence increase with a pinch of salt – the lack of national cancer registries across many Southeast Asian countries, plus improvements in diagnostic capabilities, means that in the past many patients went undiagnosed, and accurate numbers are still lacking today.

“The medical technology here [is] now much better,” says Sokha. “Now [that] we detect more cancer, the incidence [has] increased. Before, I think that the incidence [was] also high. But we don’t know.” Southeast Asia has the least number of countries with national cancer registries, at 60%, according to the 2014 World Cancer Report, making it difficult to plan and implement effective treatment strategies.

The greatest challenge to cancer care, and another consequence of development, is misplaced government priorities, according to Clarito Cairo Jr, programme manager of cancer prevention and control for the Philippines Department of Health. Cairo takes issue with the $67m invested in the controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. “The WHO’s Millennium Development Goals did not include non-communicable diseases like cancer,” he says. “That’s why the lower middle-income countries like the Philippines did not prioritise cancer. Only with the Sustainable Development Goals [in 2016 did] our government [start] to prioritise cancer.”

Talking about insurance is something new for Cambodia. Now, we look like a baby

On a policy level, the burgeoning national insurance schemes across the region are slowly shouldering the weight of out-of-pocket expenses. In 2014, Indonesia launched national health insurance that it hopes will cover all citizens by 2019. The plan has already led to a reduction in the number of patients treated out of pocket from 50% to 10%, says Soehartati Gondhowiardjo, president of the Indonesian Radiation Oncology Society and chair of Indonesia’s National Cancer Control Committee.

For some nations, innovative funding methods have paved the way to increased health coverage. In the Philippines, the introduction of a ‘sin tax’ – collected through levies on products such as tobacco – has boosted a cash-strapped health budget. “In 2010 we had around 10 billion pesos [$19.2m], and then this year we have 180 billion pesos [$3.5 billion],” Cairo says. “The budget at the Department of Health has greatly increased. So the access to services for health has also enhanced. The Filipinos will now go to hospitals without out-of-pocket expenses.”

In Cambodia, government investment in a social security fund shows its commitment to prioritising healthcare, according to Sokha, though the system is still in its infancy. “I think that talking about insurance is something new for Cambodia. Now, we look like a baby,” he says with a laugh. Sokha says the government remains unsure how much treatment the insurance should cover. With tight budgets, he says, they should tread carefully, as relieving the burden of out-of-pocket expenses may impact the quality of care patients receive.

Sokha credits the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – an organisation that promotes the safe and non-military use of nuclear technology – for much of the new centre’s success. The agency has invested about $1.5m in the project, donated more than $700,000 worth of equipment and trained half of the NCC doctors under the IAEA fellowship programme, on top of continued technical support. It even managed to convince the Cambodian government that the project was worth pursuing amid hesitations and scepticism over the safety of nuclear technology.

Four-year-old Hidha Abdulla Naushad from the Maldives being treated in a Singapore hospital for acute lymphocytic leukaemia Photo: Wong May-E / AFP

For Indonesia’s Soehartati, the solution lies in private-sector partnerships. With the increasing number of patients, partly a product of improved coverage as more patients can now afford to come to the hospital, turning to the private sector seems like a smart option as government budgets are increasingly under pressure to supply adequate equipment and drugs. “In my profession right now, around 15 to 20% of [radiotherapy] equipment in the country belongs to the private sector,” she says. “Some [private firms] set up their own private hospitals. But some of them, they put their equipment in the government hospitals… It works very well.” Having granted a concession to private companies for the operation of the machinery, the government will eventually own the equipment once the company has recouped its investment, she says. The National Cancer Control Committee is also encouraging private firms to set up in areas that lack adequate facilities – such as Papua province, the Maluku islands and the west of Borneo’s Kalimantan – so advanced healthcare will become much more accessible to Indonesia’s massive and sprawling population.

Other such public-private partnerships are sprouting around the region, with countries increasingly looking abroad for help in procuring up-to-date technology and drugs. Takeda Pharmaceuticals, a Japan-based international firm and the largest pharmaceutical company in Asia, partly funds cancer drugs in Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan for patients who could not otherwise afford them.

Sokha’s excitement is palpable as he lists the state-of-the-art facilities at his new centre; nevertheless, he admits that in Cambodia, cancer treatment is playing catch-up: “When we look to our neighbours, we are still far behind. Now we [have] started to move up with economic growth… [and are] trying to chase our neighbours in Southeast Asia. We want to open accessibility to our people, but with very good quality of care.”

Despite improvements in systems and facilities across the region, it seems clear to those on the frontline that challenges lie ahead. “It is not something like moving our hand,” says Soehartati. “It takes time because we have to change behaviour – the behaviour of the people as well as medical doctors and the decision-makers in the country.”

This article was published in the May edition of Southeast Asia Globe magazine. For full access, subscribe here.