Gov't To Hand Out More Nets To Battle Rise in Malaria Cases  

By Joe Tarr
The Cambodia Daily
Men Sothy Dr Mam Bun Heng, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Health, and Joe Tarr, Cambodia Daily staff member, distribute mosquito nets to villagers in Konsat Village.
kampot district, Kampot province - The government is hoping to distribute more mosquito nets in rural areas this year to combat a slightly climbing rate of malaria around the country, officials said.

Dr Mam Bun Heng, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Health, and several other health and provincial officials visited Konsat village on Saturday morning to distribute 2,000 mosquito nets, provided by The Cambodia Daily Mosquito Net Campaign.  

Mam Bun Heng also urged people to use condoms and distributed some free to the assembled villagers.  

Singling one young man out in the crowd of about 300, Mam Bun Heng joked about the sensitive subject, as he quizzed the man about how condoms are used.  

"When you go to sleep use mosquito nets. When you go out, use condoms," Mam Bun Heng said, prompting laughter from the crowd, who sat on the ground underneath tents.  

In 2005, the malaria rate was 5.5 for every 1,000 people, said Dr Duong Socheat, director of the National Center of Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control. Last year, the rate climbed to 7.2 people among every 1,000, Duong Socheat said. In Kampot, the rate grew from 5.9 in 2005 to 6.3 in 2006, he said.  

"Last year, we had a shortage of nets," Duong Socheat said. The government had hoped to distribute 400,000 nets in 2006, but instead distributed only about 200,000, he said. In 2005, the government distributed about 300,000 nets.  

Duong Socheat also attributed the increase in infections to people clearing forested areas for settlement. "A lot of people are going to live in the forest where there are lot of mosquitoes," he said.

The rate also increased slightly because as health care and transportation improve in rural areas, more malaria cases are being reported, Duong Socheat said. In previous years, more cases went unreported, he said.  

Overall, Kampot province isn't the hardest hit by malaria, but there are pockets where it persists.  

"Near the mountains, there are a lot of mosquitoes," said Sao Sambo, deputy governor of Kampot district. "Before we had a lot [of malaria]. Before people didn't use the mosquito nets. Now it's reduced."  

In the district on Saturday, 1,357 nets were distributed to 553 families, living in Bos Nhinh, Konsat and Veal Tamao villages. Another 643 nets were given to 345 families in Chroh Mlou village in Chumkiri district.  

This year, Duong Socheat's center asked the government for 400,000 nets to distribute around Cambodia, but he said he did not know how many the government would contribute.  

"We try to make [malaria] go down, but we'll see how many nets we can get to the people," Duong Socheat said.