Cambodia’s battle against malaria took to the international stage Wednesday, with a presentation by one of the country’s top specialists at a World Health Organization conference in Geneva.
The conference, attended by over 60 delegates from different countries, international organizations and industries, was held as part of the WHO’s new “Roll Back Malaria” initiative, announced by WHO Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland last month.
That initiative aims to halve the number of malaria deaths by 2010, and halve that number again five years later.
Dr TY Abdulcoyaume, director of the National Malaria Center of Cambodia, was invited to address the conference to explain the particular challenges of combatting malaria in Cambodia, and to share with delegates the center’s success in doing so.
In his speech, Dr Abdulcoyaume explained how conditions in Cambodia have contributed to the spread of malaria, using maps and slide projections to show delegates the hilly and forested areas where the disease is most easily transmitted.
He also described how the political upheavals and transitions have contributed to the problem.
“Recent political and military developments have brought about the progressive demise of the Khmer Rouge guerrilla movement which occupied vast areas of Cambodia’s remote forests and hills,” he told the conference.
“Khmer Rouge defections now allow for rapid resetttlement by previously internally displaced persons. Massive malaria outbreaks have occurred in these remote new settlements.”
He then described how the national malaria program’s strategy of drug treatment followed by mosquito net distribution has been effective in lowering the rate of transmission of the disease.
Cambodia was one of only two countries presenting details of their program for malaria control to the conference. The other was Ethiopia, chosen to highlight the contrast between the kind of malaria typically found on the African continent and that found in the hilly and forested terrains of Asia and South America.
The delegates at Wednesday’s conference will be drawing on the experiences of malaria specialists in countries like Cambodia to explore the possibilities for their own programs to combat the spread of the disease.
The Roll Back Malaria initiative was launched by the WHO to bring the world’s focus back onto the deadly disease, which health experts say kills more than 3,000 children worldwide every day.
The initiative aims to coordinate a worldwide coalition of governments, the private sector, international organizations and research institutes, to battle together against the disease.
Those institutions hope to raise a total of $200 million to fund the effort. That task was made easier just four days after the initiative’s launch, with a pledge by British Prime Minister Tony Blair of $96 million from the British government.
“Now is the time for the world to act to fight this terrible disease which afflicts the developing world so greatly,” said British International Development Secretary Clare Short at the G8 summit in England in May, paying tribute to Brundtland’s initiative. “I am proud that Britain has taken the lead in devoting more resources to its reduction.”
Britain has also been the main funder of Cambodia’s National Malaria Center program since 1992.