A Cambodian soldier serving as a U.N. peacekeeper in the West African nation of Mali died on Monday after contracting malaria, an official said Tuesday.
Suon Sambo, 31, died at a hospital in neighboring Senegal after contracting the disease during his mission, said Sem Sovanny, director-general of the National Center for Peacekeeping Forces.
“Suon Sambo died yesterday [Monday] because of malaria disease,” he said. “This is the first time that one of our forces has died of malaria.”
The victim, who worked as a medic in a bomb disposal unit, left for Mali almost a year ago along with 309 other soldiers and had been stationed in two or three locations in the country, Mr. Sovanny said.
Suon Sambo began suffering from malaria symptoms starting about a week before his death, and first received treatment in his unit before being transferred to a Chinese unit and finally being rushed to a hospital in Senegal, where he passed away, Mr. Sovanny said.
“We were very sad when we heard about this news because he is a hero of Cambodia,” he said. “We send a message to our peacekeepers in Mali to strengthen the prevention for all kinds of disease.”
Cambodia started sending troops to the troubled Saharan nation in February 2014, a year after the U.N. mission was established amid the conflict that followed an April 2012 secessionist coup by ethnic Tuaregs in the north.
In June 2014, two Cambodian soldiers died of food poisoning in Mali, and two more were injured a month later when the vehicle they were traveling in drove over an improvised explosive device.
Nov Sovann, the 29-year-old widow of Suon Sambo, said she was shocked by the death of her husband—with whom she has a 4-year-old daughter—after hearing about it via social media.
“I received a message from my husband’s friend through Facebook to tell me that he died of malaria,” she said. “I am very shocked about this and I cannot talk.”