The National Malaria Center on Nov 22 released its malaria report for the first nine months of this year. In comparison to the first nine months of 2002, the report noted that malaria cases decreased slightly this year.
Between January and September 2002, 77,437 cases were reported, while 76,912 have been reported in the first nine months of this year. Malaria deaths for the first nine months of the last two years have remained almost level, with 275 deaths in 2002 and 281 deaths in 2003.
Reported cases decreased significantly during the August and September malarial high season this year, compared with the same two months last year. However, reported malaria cases increased by a substantial margin between January and June, the low season, this year from those months in 2002.
Dr Kim Yadany, a medical officer for the World Health Organization who works with the National Malaria Center, said the number of cases may have increased in the first six months of this year, compared to the same period in 2002, because of a shortage of insecticide.
Kim Yadany was impressed with the decrease in malaria cases during August and September but said that the National Malaria Center’s report was by no means conclusive for the total number of malaria cases in Cambodia.
“Only about 20 percent of all malaria cases are represented by these statistics,” she said. “The data was taken from public sector health centers, referral hospitals—places that the government can monitor.”
According to research by the WHO and the National Malaria Center, most malaria cases are treated by the private sector—traditional village healers, drug vendors, and other avenues of treatment.
“We are seeing positive results in local villages outside the access of the larger health centers,” Kim Yadany said. “We deal with people who are so poor that they refuse to go to the health center because it costs too much. Our main goal is to reach the people who need help the most.”
The number of reported malaria cases can also increase because of a more comprehensive reporting system.
“When areas that were not reporting, such as areas that were under the control of the Khmer Rouge, all started reporting, it caused increased numbers of reported malaria cases,” Kim Yadany said.
“Provinces began to report their malaria cases because they realized if they reported them, they could get more mosquito nets and other resources,” she said.
It is not possible for the National Malaria Center to accurately record all the malaria cases treated by the private sector, which is by far the treatment most often sought, Kim Yadany added.
“The malaria data from the National Malaria Center is still the best information available,” she said, adding one caveat: “But it shows only the tip of the iceberg.”