The number of reported malaria cases and deaths in the country caused by the illness dropped last year, according to figures from the National Malaria Center, though the decline was not as pronounced as in years past.
In 2008, the number of confirmed malaria cases dropped 8.5 percent from 59,840 to 54,784, according to the center’s statistics.
The number of deaths fell nearly 25 percent from 241 in 2007 to 184 last year. From 2006 to 2007, however, the number of reported cases and deaths dropped dramatically by about 40 percent.
“The trend is downward but it is not sharp,” said Dr Rashid Abdur, malaria scientist for the World Health Organization in Cambodia.
Dr Duong Socheat, director of the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control Program, said last year’s malaria cases were spread fairly evenly throughout the county though the disease is most prevalent in the high, forested regions of Cambodia along the borders with Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
He attributed the dip in cases primarily to early diagnosis and treatment, and better health education particularly in rural villages. He said durable mosquito nets treated with insecticide have also contributed to the progress against malaria.
“One net can last for three to five years,” Duong Socheat said.
In 2008, the center handed out enough mosquito nets to provide for roughly three quarters of the 2.2 million Cambodians at risk of malaria, said Dr Siv Sovannaroth, who works at the center.
According to the World Health Organization, about half a million Cambodians live in forested areas where malaria transmission is intense. Prevalence rates range from 15 to 40 percent in villages near or in forested areas but are much lower in the plains and rice fields.
Dr Philippe Guyant, malaria program manager for the NGO Partners for Development, said he believes the statistics offer a good picture of the disease in Cambodia, but added they only take into account those seeking care at a publicly owned facility—or about 20 to 30 percent of the population.
Although the number of cases is trending downward, Guyant said officials have seen more migrants traveling from low-risk to high-risk malaria areas catching the disease.
Duong Socheat said officials eventually want to see the mosquito-borne disease eradicated from the country and will launch a program in 2015 in an attempt to achieve that goal. Getting the program off the ground, he said, is contingent on financial and logistical backing.