Cambodia needs to step up efforts to control tuberculosis (TB), Prime Minister Hun Sen said.

Although the number of deaths from TB has dropped, he said the morbidity and mortality are still high and many people still do not have easy access to treatment services.

Hun Sen mentioned this in a letter dated March 9 and made public on March 15 to mark World TB Day 2023, which falls on March 24, with the theme “Yes! We can end TB!”

Cambodia has provided free TB testing and treatment to people that has significantly decreased infection rates in the country, though the cases that go undetected have a high mortality rate.

“Cambodia still has a high rate of TB morbidity and mortality compared to some countries and many people still do not have access to treatment services,” said Hun Sen.

This issue requires Cambodia to boost the efforts to further reduce the morbidity and mortality of TB in line with the government’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)and UN’s SDGs, he added.

According to the prime minister, mortality has decreased from 42 cases per 100,000 people in 2000 to 21 cases per 100,000 people in 2021, a decline of 50 per cent.

The new disease incidence has dropped from 579 cases per 100,000 people in 2000 to 283 cases per 100,000 people in 2021, equivalent to 50 per cent.

“This means Cambodia has already achieved the Millennium Development Goals in terms of reducing morbidity and mortality from TB four years ahead of schedule. Eradicating TB is an achievement that only a small number of countries have managed,” said the premier.

He said that the good outcomes came from the joint efforts of the people, while the government expanded the screening and treatment services in all referral hospitals, health centres and health posts at the community level throughout the country.

World TB Day is observed in order to raise awareness about the disease and push for more resources devoted to TB testing, treatment and eradication. It’s also to educate people so that they understand the scale of the problem and the consequences of the disease, the prevention of which contributes to the welfare, value and dignity of society as a whole.

“This year’s theme makes the whole world believe that all people can end TB by uniting and accelerating to do more work. More importantly, to promote testing services and increase TB research and treatment globally everywhere and for everyone,”he said.

An estimated 10 million people globally are infected with TB each year and an estimated three million people do not have access to care and treatment each year, according to the prime minister.

He hopes that this theme will encourage the search for the three to four million people in the world who do nothave access to the treatment to be cured.

Huot Chan Yuda, director of the National Centre for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control (CENAT), said that both TB research and treatment in 2022 achieved better results than in 2021 because of the Covid-19 crisis.

He said the TB eradication situation in Cambodia was following the 10-year strategic plan to achieve the end of the TB epidemic by 2030.

Chan Yuda said he hopes that this year there would be participation from more relevant institutions to end TB as Cambodia has reopened the country after Covid-19 eased.

“However, we still have some concerns because we endured the Covid-19 crisis for two consecutive years. We need more assistance to further help Cambodia overcome the public health risk,” he said, adding that this year’s theme is a step towards Cambodia ending TB by 2030.