About 60 percent of in-patients at military hospitals and infirmaries are suffering from malaria, according to a report from the health department of the Ministry of Defense.
Malaria is one of the highest causes of death of all government soldiers in 1997, according to the annual review.
Officials from the National Malaria Center say that a lack of malaria medicine and bed nets, coupled with inadequate medical knowledge about treating the disease, contributed to the high numbers.
There were 11,142 confirmed cases of malaria in the military in 1996 and 19,166 confirmed cases of malaria in military hospitals in 1997. Of those cases last year, 284 people died.
The report also blames increased movement of military forces in areas of high malaria transmission. Military operations along the Thai border expose soldiers to some of the world’s most drug-resistant strains of malaria.
“Because of the fighting we could not protect the people along the border,” said Dr Duong Socheat, vice director of the National Malaria Center. “It’s a big problem, and we worry about that.”
Some malaria strains in northwestern Cambodia are resistant to chloroquine and mefloquine, two front-line drugs against the mosquito-borne disease.
Year-end statistics from the National Malaria Center show that malaria in 1997 was also up nationwide by 60 percent from 1996.
Officials, however, say the severity of cases has not increased and that much of the rise in cases is due to improved reporting conditions. Military hospitals do not include their numbers in nationwide statistics.
Increased movement into former Khmer Rouge areas in the northwestern part of the country and continued displacement of refugees from fighting along the Thai border have contributed to the higher numbers of cases.
A possible increase of the number of young males working as migrant laborers in the forests is also associated with the high nationwide numbers.
The National Malaria Center plans to continue training sessions on malaria treatment for medical staff at military hospitals. Doctors and medical staff at military hospitals in Stung Treng, Banteay Meanchey, Kompong Cham, Kompong Speu and Siem Reap provinces will receive training in 1998.
Last year, the National Malaria Center trained 49 military doctors in Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap provinces.
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