The number of malaria cases declined last year, reaching its lowest level since 1997, the National Malaria Center has reported. However, the treatment of severe cases was uneven in the country, with only three hospitals out of four following the set medical procedure.
The center released its 2002 malaria report at its annual conference last week.
The ultimate goal of the malaria control program has always been to reduce fatal cases, said Duong Socheat, director of the center. Last year, results were on target with that goal as fatal cases dropped to 420 from 476 in 2001. Fatalities have been steadily declining since 1999, when 891 deaths were reported.
Following the outbreak of 1997 that affected 170,387 people in Cambodia, malaria cases have dropped each year. In 2002, there were 110,762 cases in the country, which was nearly 5,000 less than in 2001, Duong Socheat said.
Hospital care remained a problem last year. Only 79 percent of the hospitals treated uncomplicated cases, and 73 percent of severe cases were treated according to the set procedure.
In addition, one hospital out of four had difficulties getting its drug supplies. This shows that “tremendous efforts are still needed to improve the management of malaria activities all over the country,” the report said. The center’s plans for this year include training in hospitals that are short of staff.
Measures to control the disease include insecticide-treated bed nets. Last year, 131,673 bed nets were distributed in 19 provinces, and 115,163 older bed nets, compared to 52,973 in 2001, were retreated.
These nets came from the center’s stock and from various donors: The World Health Organization, the World Bank, the US Embassy, the NGO Cooperazione e Sviluppo and The Cambodia Daily.
Bed net efforts ran into some difficulties, including a shortage of insecticide until August 2002; nets arriving late into the rainy, high-risk season, and provinces getting their funds late and distributing nets in the wrong areas, the report said.
Controlling a disease fthat has no vaccine and is transmitted through mosquitoes that are not about to disappear has involved public education campaigns. In 2002, the center used television ads, community workshops, and distributed 80,000 leaflets and 30,000 posters. This information campaign will continue this year.
The malaria program also involved research to monitor drug and insecticide effectiveness, the training of health volunteers in remote areas, and the distribution of dipstick kits and pre-packaged medicine both in the public and private sectors.
At the conference last week, Minister of Health Hong Sun Huot appealed to all health agencies and NGOs to include malaria control in their programs even if it is not their main focus.