A series of events intended to raise awareness of malaria will be held on Monday in Mondulkiri province’s Koh Nhek district, one of the Kingdom’s few remaining endemic areas for the disease.
The events are scheduled to commemorate the upcoming World Malaria Day on Thursday.
The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) Cambodia Representative Office on Friday issued a joint statement, saying this year’s theme – Zero Malaria Starts with Me – is about keeping malaria high on the political agenda and promoting community empowerment for taking ownership of malaria prevention and care.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said the events aim “to encourage everyone, especially mobile and migrant populations whose jobs require them to const-antly move around places, to take part in malaria prevention efforts”.
“All individuals must help each other in fighting against malaria, starting first with themselves. It is highly advisable to use a mosquito net whenever you sleep in a new place, for instance,” she continued. Vandine also stressed that anyone who has tested positive for the disease must immediately seek proper medical treatment to prevent their condition worsening and potential death.
Health Minister Mam Bun Heng and Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, will attend the events to show support and political commitment to eradicating malaria in Cambodia, according to the statement.
“We gather aptly in Koh Nhek [district], one of the few remaining areas where Cambodians are still afflicted by the disease,” the statement read.
“Elimination of malaria from these final areas will be a significant milestone not only for the Greater Mekong Sub-region [GMS] but also for the world.”
Other areas with a recorded high presence of malaria cases include pockets of Pursat, Kampong Speu, Kampong Chhnang, Preah Vihear, Oddar Meanchey, Ratanakkiri, Kratie and Stung Treng provinces, Vandine said.
She added that through the events, the governments of these provinces are urged to implement measures to eliminate malaria, including reaching out to the target population, educating the communities about health, testing for the malaria virus and providing medicine to affected individuals.
Cambodia has remarkable achievements to celebrate, the statement said, as the Kingdom had zero malaria-related deaths last year.
Moreover, the number of infections caused by Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest strand of the disease, decreased by almost 30 per cent compared to 2017.
However, issues such as universal access to malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment for forest-goers in rural areas and drug resistance remain as challenges, the statement said.
Last September, the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control, with support from WHO and partners, launched an intensified response plan to target most-at-risk populations.
That plan focused on strengthening malaria prevention and improving case management through health centres, villages and mobile malaria workers, it further read.
Referring to the government’s ambitious target to eliminate all cases of malaria in humans from the Kingdom by 2025, Vandine said her ministry is optimistic.
The ministry, she noted, has now successfully achieved zero malaria-related mortalities two years in a row prior to the 2020 deadline.
“We had strategies to achieve this goal and it wasn’t very easy to implement them. But in the end we succeeded.
“We are determined that the death rate will stay at zero until 2020 and beyond,” she said.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, was also quoted in the joint statement: “Ultimately, investing in universal health coverage is the best way to ensure that all communities have access to the services they need to beat malaria.
“Individual and community empowerment through grass-root initiatives like Zero Malaria Starts with Me can also play a critical role in driving progress.”