The number of people who died from malaria last year plummeted to 12, a significant drop from the 46 malaria deaths in 2012, according to the latest figures released by the Cambodia National Malaria Center (CNMC).
The drop continues a trend of falling malaria deaths in Cambodia, with 93 people having died from malaria in 2011. Infection rates were also down in 2013 compared to 2012, dropping from 69,551 to 41,849, the figures show.
Mondolkiri, Ratanakkiri, Kratie and Kompong Thom provinces all recorded malaria deaths, according to the figures, while the majority of the 41,849 infections occurred in Stung Treng, Preah Vihear and Kratie provinces.
Sonny Krishnan, spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Cambodia, attributed the drop in deaths and infections to programs carried out by the CNMC with the support of the WHO over the past three years.
“Over 2 million nets have been distributed since 2010, and it has also been very much the village malaria workers who have been the frontline warriors,” he said.
“In the high-risk malaria regions, each village has about two malaria workers—we have over 1,500 [in total]—and they give out tests for malaria. If the patients test positive, they are given anti-malarials,” he explained.
CNMC director Char Meng Chuor said the rapid drops in deaths from malaria would slow as they approach zero.
“We expect more decrease[s] in 2014 but I am not sure it will [be] as fast [as] in 2011-2013 because the 2013 mortality is already close to zero (0.08 per 100,000 inhabitants),” Dr. Meng Chuor wrote in an email Monday.
“For instance, decrease number of death 12 (2013) to 9 (2014) may be more difficult than what was done so far from 93 (2011) to 12 (2013).”
Mr. Krishnan of the WHO said he is hopeful the pattern of falling deaths will continue.
“Cambodia is on the path to having zero malaria deaths in 2015 and eliminating malaria by 2025,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean the game is over. You still have to be vigilant, as the parasite remains in neighboring countries.”