Health Ministry Reports Malaria Cases, Deaths Declining

The National Malaria Center re­leased figures last week showing a decrease in the number of malaria cases treated in public facilities and a decrease in the number of malaria deaths in 2004.

Total malaria cases decreased from 132,571 in 2003 to 116,324 in 2004; and deaths decreased from 492 to 380 in the same period. In 1998, there were 140,843 cases and 621 deaths. Also in 2004, 124,793 bed nets were distributed and 142,351 nets were re-treated with insecticide.

“The decrease is due to the in­creased distribution of bed nets and the training of village malaria volunteers. We trained 2,000 volunteers in 2004,” Duong Socheat, director of the Ministry of Health’s National Malaria Center, said Wednesday.

“The figures are only from the public sector,” he added. “When we get the private sector the number will be higher. About 80 percent of people go to the private sec­tor.”

Hector Rifa, an anthropologist with the University of Oviedo in Spain, finished a stu­dy of anti-ma­laria practices among the ethnic mi­norities of Cambodia and Laos this month.

The study pushed for greater education of the Jarai people and for lar­ger four-person bed nets to be distributed to ethnic minorities because the study showed they tend to sleep in groups.

Rifa’s World Health Organi­za­tion-funded study found that among the Kavet and Kreung people, 80 percent knew mosquitoes caused malaria, but among the more remote Jarai tribe, only 43 per­cent knew the cause of the di­sease. “A project to educate minor­ities has reached the Kreung people but not yet the Jarai,” Rifa ex­plained.

Duong Socheat said Monday that only two-person bed nets are distributed.

“The problem is we have to re­cal­culate the amount of insecticide and re-train the people if we use the big nets,” he said, adding that edu­cation of the Jarai is being planned as part of an Asian Devel­opment Bank-funded program.

On Feb 12, Rifa’s NGO, Psycho­logists Without Borders, aided the Ratanakkiri provincial health de­partment in opening the first health post in remote Nhang Com­mune of Andong Meas district. The post, built by the government, will be administered by the NGO Health­net for three years.

“The tribes people slaughtered a buffalo and about 1,000 danced around the building,” Rifa said. He said that because many minorities do not speak Khmer, the new health post, Ratanakkiri’s sixth, is staffed by minorities.

Rifa said that the government’s es­timates of malaria cases are flawed because in remote areas, diag­nosis is often not made on those who die of malarial symptoms.

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