30 Sept, 2010
Malaria control is facing serious challenges along the Thai-Cambodian border, especially in containing a protozoan parasite that causes malaria in humans.
Coordinator of the World Health Organisation's Mekong Malaria Programme Dr Charles Delacollette said a well-coordinated containment strategy was in place along the border.
WHO has developed a malaria containment project in the area by working closely with the governments of Thailand and Cambodia. The US$22.5 million project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
"We have to be more aggressive against the deadly Plasmodium falciparium parasite, develop new interventions, improve and encourage human resource engagement, come up with new therapies, and secure the best drugs.
"Winning the war against this parasite is a challenge," said Dr Delacollette in a joint statement issued by WHO and the Bureau of Vector Borne Disease of Thailand's Ministry of Health.
He said it was important for Asean to show strong commitment and ownership in the regional containment and elimination of multi-drug resistant falciparium malaria.
It was along the Thai-Cambodian border about three years ago that the Plasmodium falciparium parasite was found to have developed resistance to artesunate and this raised concerns that renewed efforts to globally eradicate malaria could be imperilled.
"There were fears that a disastrous situation for malaria control in the Mekong region and the rest of Asia and, thereafter in Africa had emerged," said Dr Delacollette.
He said Cambodia was making dramatic progress and as of Sept 14, this year there were only two cases of falciparium malaria out of 5,686 people screened in 16 villages in Pailin which previously was the most affected in the border area.
In the Soi Dao and Pong Nam Ron districts of Chantaburi province of Thailand, falciparium malaria cases dropped from 16 to seven from 2008 to 2009, the year before the cross-border project started, he added.