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Govt vows expansion of malaria fight

Says so far, 400,000 bed nets distributed in target provinces.

The National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria control said Sunday that it has distributed as many as 400,000 mosquito nets in 10 target provinces as part of a strategy to eliminate malaria within Cambodia's borders.

"By 2015, no one in Cambodia will die of malaria," said Duong Socheat, director of the centre.

With contributions from the Global Fund and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the centre has been able to expand its reach, distributing nets to rural areas and sending health officials to hard-to-reach communities, Duong Socheat said.

An early rainy season has led to an increased malaria rate when compared with the same period last year, said Siv Sovannaroth, head of the centre's bed net department, making the program's timing particularly good.

Cambodia has seen its malaria deaths plummet from more than 1,000 a decade ago, to about 200 in 2008, according to the centre's data. But Siv Sovannaroth says in order for Cambodia to succeed in reaching its ambitious malaria elimination goals, it will need more resources.

The centre has identified more than 3,000 villages in Cambodia at risk for malaria, totaling about 2.3 million people, Siv Sovannaroth said, adding that to protect a population of this size, Cambodia would need 1 million nets, which would need replacing about every two years.

"We still don't have enough for everyone," he said.

The only way to control drug-resistant strains along the Thai-Cambodian border is to eliminate malaria, according to a February study by a team of international researchers published in the Malaria Journal.

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