About Schistosomiasis and Neglected Tropical Diseases in Cambodia
In the 1990s, up to three quarters of the population in some areas of Cambodia were infected with schistosomiasis. Schistosomiasis is caused by a parasitic worm that lives part of its life cycle in freshwater snails, infecting people through the skin when they enter water sources, including rice paddies. The disease was especially rampant in Kratie and Stung Treng, the two large provinces that surround the Mekong River.
Intestinal worms such as ascariasis, trichuriasis and hookworm also burdened large percentages of the population.
Tackling neglected tropical diseases like schistosomiasis in Cambodia was no easy feat. The effects of the past civil war and political instability created challenges in achieving economic, educational and health outcomes.
To address schistosomiasis and other neglected tropical diseases on a national scale, the National Task Force for Helminth Control was created. They began to distribute treatment for schistosomiasis in 1997 and eventually expanded to school-based deworming programs in 2004.
In 2006, they further expanded their deworming efforts to reach pre-school aged children and pregnant mothers, segments of the populations that are typically more difficult to reach with treatment and education. The task force delivered mebendazole tablets and vitamin A supplementation to these key populations with the support of international partners, including UNICEF.
The Future for NTDs in Cambodia
Cambodia has made tremendous progress in just over a decade since it began efforts to control schistosomiasis and other NTDs. The Task Force helped to bring schistosomiasis prevalence rates below five percent and Cambodia became the first country to provide deworming treatment to every child.
Cambodia has established strategic partnerships with technical institutions, drug manufacturers, and public and private funders and has active involvement from health officials and key leadership at all levels of government.
Cambodia provides a best-case scenario for what other countries can hope to achieve through their national plans to control neglected tropical diseases. Learn more about the program in Cambodia from our partner Children Without Worms.