The reported number of fatal malaria cases almost doubled in the first half of 2009 compared to the same period last year, while the overall number of infections rose more than 58 percent, Ministry of Health officials said yesterday.
Tol Bunkea, chief epidemiologist at the Ministry of Health, said the number of malaria deaths this year stood at 130 out of a total of 32,638 registered malaria cases. Dr Bunkea said that in the first half of 2008 there were 67 fatalities out of 20,563 reported cases of malaria.
Duong Socheat, director of National Center of Parasitology, Entomology, and Malaria Control, said the increase of infections was due to the early rains and the fact that the government had distributed mosquito nets too late this year.
Dr Socheat said the increasing number of people migrating to remote, forested areas on the Cambodian-Thai border, such as in Pailin and Oddar Meanchey provinces, was also leading to a rise in malaria cases.
“People are moving there to work, clear the forest and do farming in areas that have a lot of mosquitoes. Then they come back with malaria,” he said, adding, “This migration is still the major cause of this disease.”
Dr Socheat said the government is also increasingly concerned about the effectiveness of medicine for malaria treatment, as recent international studies found strains of drug resistant malaria in western Cambodia. “Before it took 48 hours to kill the parasite, but now [in some cases] it takes 80 hours,” he said.
In February, the World Health Organization started a $22.5 million cross-border project to contain the drug-resistant malaria strains.