As Prime Minister Hun Sen called on the Health Ministry to redouble efforts to eliminate malaria within the next 10 years, the National Malaria Center yesterday reported that there were fewer than half as many deaths from the disease last year as in 2009.
Duong Socheat, director of the National Malaria Center, said cases of malaria dropped by a quarter last year, with 60,000 cases in 2010 compared to more than 80,000 in 2009. Fewer cases were fatal, with 111 deaths in 2010 compared to 207 in 2009.
“We have seen a lot of improvement,” he said. “Before when people were sick, they may have needed five hours to bring them to hospital. Now it is usually only an hour.”
Speaking in Kampong Cham province during the inauguration of a new building for the provincial hospital, the premier stressed that the responsibility for malaria control lay with the Health Ministry.
“Whether the campaign works or not is not dependent on the prime minister, but it is dependent on the Ministry of Health,” he said.
“We already succeeded in eliminating polio,” he added. Cambodia was declared polio-free in 2000, six years after beginning an eradication program, during which 2 million children were given a vaccine.
Steven Bjorge, a medical officer for the Communicable Disease Section of the World Health Organization, said that while eradicating malaria nationwide by 2015 was optimistic, it was realistic for large swaths of the country.
“Elimination of malaria will have to take place step by step,” he said.
Dr Bjorge said WHO, in partnership with the government, was focused on controlling the drug-resistant malaria strain present in the western provinces, and had signed a $91 million agreement with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria to fund the rolling out of the program over the next five years.
“If we have the resources to extend the control program from the west throughout the country, with nets and effective drugs, this country can really turn stuff around,” he said.