Malaria deaths fell to their lowest level in five years, thanks to increased net distributions and other measures taken by the government’s National Malaria Center, according to an annual report.
Reported deaths due to the mosquito-borne disease fell from 608 in 2000 to 476 last year, the malaria center reported Wednesday at its annual assessment meeting. The total number of cases also fell.
“We have improved the quality of our activities,” said Dr Duong Socheat, director of the National Malaria Center. “All of our activities have already improved through training.”
Training for the national staff in Phnom Penh and provincial health personnel led to better diagnosis and treatment of the disease, he said.
Malaria remains one of nation’s top killers and “the foremost public health problem in Cambodia,” the report says.
In order to combat the disease, caused by a parasite that preys on the blood cells and leads to other illnesses and death, the National Malaria has a list of its “top six activities.”
At the top of the list is the distribution of mosquito nets. In 2001, the center continued to distribute nets treated with insecticide to remote villages.
The Anopheles mosquito that carries malaria thrives in forested, mountainous regions, which make up about 60 percent of the country. These mosquitoes bite only at night, making mosquito nets the best prevention.
This year, the malaria center also began an aggressive campaign to market hammock nets and chemical treatments. The hammock nets were meant to fill a gap in the distribution of traditional mosquito nets, which are given to families to use at home.
However, many people living in remote areas make their living by traveling to the forest to hunt or gather firewood, where they are often exposed to mosquitoes. The hammock nets are designed for use in the forest.
The National Malaria Center and the European Commission last year established a pilot program for the social marketing of Malarine, a combination of mefloquine and artesunate in a three-day dose.
The project caught on and Malarine is now being marketed nationwide.
The National Malaria Center has been cited by the international community as a strong example for other malaria-stricken countries, Duong Socheat said.
With its combination therapies to combat drug resistance, “dip stick” field diagnosis kits, social marketing for hammock nets and other measures, Cambodia has become “a model, an example [especially] to African countries,” Duong Socheat said.
In 2002 the center will increase its training in order to improve accuracy of diagnosis and rapid treatment in remote areas, he said.
The center will also enlist the help of “village volunteers” who will be trained by malaria center staff to help diagnosis and treat malaria victims faster, Duong Socheat said.