While the continuing political stand-off continues in Phnom Penh and Hun Sen's government is showing itself increasingly ready to react harshly against protest groups, there is actually some good news from Cambodia. Reviewing developments in 2013, the country’s National Centre for Malaria has just released encouraging figures in the continuing fight against the high human costs of the disease. Over the past year the number of deaths from malaria dropped from 46 to 12, while the number of recorded cases fell from 65,550 to 41, 850.
As the still large number of cases indicates, there is much to be done if the aim of eliminating malaria by 2025 is to be achieved.
Not least of the many Cambodia tragedies of the past fifty years is the fact that major steps towards eliminating malaria had been achieved in the 1960s, despite some significant cultural opposition that had to be overcome on the part of the Buddhist hierarchy. The efforts ground to an almost complete halt in the last years of the 1960s as rebellion broke out, first in the northwest of the country and then nation-wide after Sihanouk's overthrow in 1970. And then, during the Khmer Rouge period between 1975 and 1979, no effort was made to combat the widespread resurgence of malaria in circumstances of an almost complete lack of decent medical services.
Malaria remains prevalent in western regions of Cambodia, not least in the region around the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin. And a continuing challenge is the emergence new and virulent forms of the disease and the problem of resistance to widely used treatments.
Photo by Flickr user calafellvalo.