Minister of Health Dr Hong Sun Huot will lead a delegation of Cambodian senior health officials to Geneva next week for the 55th annual meeting of the World Health Assembly, of which he has served as president for the past year.
The health situation overall has improved in Cambodia, mainly due to an increase in security, the minister said. But Cambodia has also emerged as a leader in recent years in the treatment and prevention of malaria.
Over the past year, severe cases and deaths due to malaria have dropped to their lowest levels in at least six years. More trips to the provinces, mosquito net distributions and increased training of provincial staff have all led to the decrease.
Hong Sun Huot will pass the presidency on to another minister after a year that saw Cambodia setting standards in the fight against malaria and dengue fever, another mosquito-borne illness.
“Cambodia has set standards of achievements with last year’s Mosquitoblitz,” said Dr Stefan Hoyer, a communicable diseases expert with the World Health Organization.
With WHO support, the spread of dengue was curbed through door-to-door distribution of larvacide and water jar lids.
Cambodia has also been commended for developments in malaria control over the past year. Combination drug therapies, including the development of a powder treatment that can be given to infants, and widespread mosquito net distributions have made African countries take notice.
Many of the programs developed or used here will be studied in Geneva by health officials from around the world, Hoyer said. “Cambodia was by far the country that best exemplified malaria control.”
Another great step for malaria prevention worldwide will be the appointment of Dr Richard Feachem as executive director of the Global Fund, a foundation aimed at treating AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, Hoyer said. Feachem had been the supervisor of the WHO’s worldwide Roll Back Malaria program, which prioritized treatment of the disease.
“That is quite a sensational development for us,” Hoyer said.
Feachem will bring his malaria experience to the Global Fund, which has put a greater priority on AIDS prevention but will nevertheless mean additional funding for malaria, said Dr Duong Socheat, director of the Ministry of Health’s National Malaria Center.
The government will ask the Global Fund for $3.5 million to fight malaria.
“We hope that it will bring more funding,” Duong Socheat said.
Nearly 3 million people are affected by the disease each year, with about 1 million dying, according to the WHO.
Hong Sun Huot has called the battle with malaria the constant struggle against a disease that “all the time and continuously makes our people suffer.”