New Strategic Plan Aspires To Cut Malaria Deaths by Half

By David McFadden
August 11, 2005

The National Malaria Center and the Ministry of Health have recently signed off on a five-year strategic plan to battle malaria, with the primary goal of cutting by half the number of deaths due to the mosquito-borne disease by 2010.

Although there has been a steady decline in the fatality rate as well as in the number of malaria cases since the mid-1990s, the document detailing the plan states that the current death toll “remain[s] unacceptably high and efforts must continue to bring the disease under control.”

Cambodia’s fatality rate for malaria, which the document indicates kills roughly 400 people each year, is about 0.5 percent.

Those hardest hit by the disease are ethnic minorities, temporary migrants, plantation workers and others who live in heavily forested areas.

The country’s thick forests and jungle, which cover more than half of Cambodia’s territory, provide ideal breeding grounds for the Anopheles dirus mosquito, a carrier of the disease, explains the document. 

Drug-resistant strains of malaria are highly prevalent along the Thai-Cambodian border and, according to studies, a high level of resistance to chloroquine and other anti-malaria drugs has also developed in northwestern Cambodia. This hampers efforts to control the disease, the document says.

Giving access to early treatment—crucial to reduce the death rate—to people in remote, forested parts of the country has proven difficult, the document says.

Women and children of those areas often get the short end of the stick in malaria control programs. “When the adult male member falls sick, the family makes the physical and financial efforts to take him to the nearest public or private health facility, however far it may be located. But when women and children fall sick, either they are taken to local healers or given traditional medicines or just left to their fate,” the document says.

Duong Socheat, director of the National Malaria Center, said that the center is working to ensure that village malaria workers—volunteers living in remote, high malaria-risk villages handling early treatment—are well-trained and well-equipped, and that special emphasis is placed on treatment of mothers and children.

The number of reported malaria cases has been reduced by almost two-thirds in several high-risk areas due to effective control measures, such as improving access to treatment and massive distribution of inecticide-treated bed nets, the document states. 

The five-year plan warns that although Cambodia has not reported any malaria epidemics since 2000, there still is a potential for outbreaks due to the movements of an increasingly mobile population from areas with little malaria to highly endemic ones.