The number of children seeking treatment for diabetes is on the rise, with Kantha Bopha hospitals treating between 60 and 80 new cases each year, according to a new report.

The data, seen by The Post on August 8, reveals that this includes both the Kantha Bopha hospitals in Phnom Penh, with 40 to 50 cases, and the Siem Reap provincial branch, with 20 to 30 cases.

Currently, 566 children with diabetes are under monitoring and receive ongoing treatment at the hospitals: 362 in Phnom Penh and 204 in Siem Reap.

“In total, from 2020 until July 2023, we have recorded 161 cases in Phnom Penh and 93 cases in Siem Reap. The combined new diabetes cases admitted to our hospitals in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap total 254 cases,” said the report.

Iv Malene, vice-director of Kantha Bopha in Phnom Penh, said on August 8 that the cause of type one diabetes remains unclear. He said scientists worldwide are yet to determine the exact reason, though multiple factors, including genetics, environmental elements and viral infections, might contribute.

“Our people, whether in the countryside or cities, often find it hard to believe when we mention the possibility of diabetes in children,” Malene remarked.

“Essentially, children are more susceptible to developing diabetes when a deficiency of the hormone insulin results in elevated blood sugar levels. Elevated blood sugar leads to diabetes,” she explained.

According to Malene, individuals under 35 are categorised as having type one diabetes. This type affects the pancreas, leading to insufficient insulin production, which disrupts the regulation of glucose levels and requires external insulin supplementation.

“Roughly 90 to 95 percent of children with diabetes fall under the type one category due to extensive or near-complete pancreatic damage,” she emphasised.

She went on to describe how the process works, saying: “Beta cells within the pancreas release insulin, directing glucose from the bloodstream to nourish body cells and storing excess sugar in the liver.”

Malene warned that managing glucose levels requires constant monitoring and additional insulin.

“Children with type one diabetes must diligently manage blood sugar through insulin injections, dietary choices and exercise as prescribed,” she advised.

Proper blood sugar control, according to Malene, contributes to a healthy life. However, failure to maintain control can lead to serious complications such as eye and kidney damage, high blood pressure affecting arteries, and impacts on the nervous system.

A worrying trend is unfolding in Cambodia, with over one-eighth of children aged 5 to 19 struggling with weight and obesity, according to the 2020 Global Nutrition Report. This aligns with two-thirds of deaths in the country being tied to non-communicable diseases, often resulting from unhealthy eating habits.

In 2010, 5.2 per cent of all adults in Cambodia were suffering from diabetes. By 2019, this figure had climbed to 6.4 per cent, with a concerning 62 per cent unaware of their condition. Moreover, the International Diabetes Federation reported a diabetes-related mortality rate of 22 deaths per day in Cambodia in 2019.

The financial burden is also significant, with the annual cost of treating a single patient amounting to around $238. The total treatment costs for all diabetics reached approximately $102 million, a figure that is projected to rise to $145.9 million by 2030.

Adding to the gravity of the situation, the mortality count from diabetes is expected to surge to 8,325 cases by 2022. Meanwhile, the number of diabetes cases might nearly reach an alarming 500,000.