Comic Book Campaign Successful in Fight Against Malaria

June 13, 2002
By Michelle Vachon
The Cambodia Daily

In December 2001, Sipar, a French NGO that specializes in book publishing, distributed 22,500 copies of a comic book produced especially for a anti-malaria campaign aimed at primary-school students that features the well-known Cambodian character Tam Tam.

At the same time, a technical team from the Ministry of Education toured 17 malaria-prone districts to train about 65 teachers who, in turn, would train other instructors on ways to use the books in class.

Lessons were spread over a period of six to eight weeks in January and February. The last page of the book was a questionnaire and an invitation for students to submit drawings illustrating what they had learned.

More than 4,400 teachers taught the class to a total of 224,830 students, said Frederick Gay, regional coordinator for the European Commission's Malaria Control Program in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, which funded the campaign.
One of the most encouraging results of the campaign is that, in the questionnaire, 75 percent of students' responses on the cause, symptoms and treatment of malaria were correct, he said.

This shows how effective non-conventional teaching material can be, said Aldo Dell'Ariccia, charge d'affaires for the EC.
In the comic book, Tam Tam and her friend Nakkroupette, a female doctor, talk about malaria being transmitted through mosquito bites and the importance of using mosquito nets at night.

Students were able to follow the explanation, said Chhoeung Chheng Hak, who visited the schools to evaluate the campaign results. In the course of the class, they started to truly realize the need for mosquito nets, he said.

Now, these well-informed children will pass on what they learned to their families, said Mu Sochua, minister of womenÕs and veterans' affairs.

"It's through the children that we reach adults who can't read or write," she said.

The campaign cost 500 riel (about $0.13) per student, said Roberto Garcia, European co-director of the Malaria Control Project.

Minister of Health Hong Sun Huot has asked the Malaria Control Project to print more copies of the comic book and to run the campaign in additional areas.

It is crucial to continue educating people about protection and prompt treatment, he said. Malaria fatalities in Cambodia have decreased significantly, with only 476 dying in 2001 from the illness, down from 608 deaths the previous year. But malaria will always be one of CambodiaÕs major health problems, Hong Sun Huot said.