Royal Government of Cambodia commits to eliminating the deadliest strain of malaria

The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) today committed to eliminating Plasmodium falciparum within the next few months, and to maintaining zero cases by 2023, through the launch of an innovative and targeted approach for the ‘last mile’ of malaria elimination in the country.

P. falciparum is the deadliest strain of malaria and is resistant to antimalarial drugs, which adds urgency to efforts to eliminate it.

According to the targets set out in the Malaria Elimination Action Framework, Cambodia is on the brink of success. We are now at the stage of reaching P. falciparum elimination by 2023, not only in Kampong Speu but also in all other remaining provinces.”

H.E. Professor Mam Bunheng, Minister of Health

H.E. Minister Bunheng encouraged all health workers, officials, authorities, partners and people to put in every effort in this last mile to eliminate P. falciparum, saying, “Working together makes malaria elimination in Cambodia possible.”

Dr Li Ailan, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to Cambodia, commended the work that has been done.

“I am very impressed by the tremendous efforts made at the local, provincial and national levels for malaria elimination. We appreciate the partners’ collective action for this. Cambodia, being very close to the goal, can be the first country in the region to eliminate P. falciparum malaria, serving as a champion in the Greater Mekong Subregion.”

The kickoff for the ‘last mile’ of malaria elimination was held in Kampong Speu at an event attended by the Ministry of Health (MOH), WHO, the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology, and Malaria Control (CNM), the Governorate of Kampong Speu, the United Nations Office for Project Services, and other partners. H.E. Minister Mam Bunheng, Dr Huy Rekol, Director of the CNM, and H.E. Vei Samnang, Governor of Kampong Speu, delivered addresses acknowledging this historic moment.

At the event, all stakeholders agreed to partner on three interventions to eliminate P. falciparum in malaria hotspots in five provinces:

  • Distribution of mosquito nets;
  • Weekly house-to-house fever screening to ensure every person with a fever is tested for malaria and receives treatment if positive; and
  • Targeted drug administration and Intermittent Preventive Treatment for travellers who visit malaria-risk areas.

The ‘last mile’ of malaria elimination is an innovative approach that builds on Cambodia’s impressive progress in malaria control and elimination in the past years. MOH, including the National Malaria Programme, technically and programmatically supported by WHO, strengthened engagement with partners, communities and civil societies to ensure full implementation of the national strategic plan activities and deployment of aggressive interventions to reduce malaria.

Cambodia has continued its intensive response to malaria elimination during the COVID-19 pandemic and recently reached a historically low malaria incidence level. Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, the country has minimized disruptions, prioritized preparedness and maintained solid progress in its fight against malaria. After reporting 3528 P. falciparum and mixed malaria cases in September 2017, only 72 P. falciparum and mixed cases were reported in approximately 60 villages in September 2020. This achievement is even more notable given that Cambodia is the epicentre of malaria multidrug resistance in the region.

The response is part of a broader initiative supported by WHO’s Mekong Malaria Elimination (MME) programme. The key to the success of this aggressive approach is the active inclusion of village malaria workers, villagers living in forested areas and leaders of remote communities. This inclusion captures important insights from the people most affected by this issue and creates an opportunity for local communities to engage in malaria interventions. These local partnerships are essential in ensuring Cambodia will reach the unreached and underserved and establish community buy-in.

The work being done in Cambodia will play a critical role in driving progress in the Greater Mekong. I hope that we can use this forward-thinking and locally driven approach as a blueprint for future interventions in the subregion.”

Dr Luciano Tuseo, MME Hub Coordinator

WHO will support MOH, particularly CNM, and partners in ensuring an effective technical strategy, and will also provide operational and financial support to achieve the elimination goal. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has committed US$ 2 million to implement more aggressive interventions.

After the elimination of P. falciparum malaria, Cambodia’s next goal is to eliminate all malaria species by 2025.

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