1,400 Mosquito Nets, Words of Advice Given to Kampot Villagers

By Elizabeth Tomei
July 14, 2006

Photo Credit: The Cambodia Daily Cambodia Daily reporter Elizabeth Tomei hands out mosquito nets as Duong Socheat, left, director of
the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control, and Health Ministry Secretary of State Mam Bun Heng look on.

O’toch commune, Kampot province - O’Toch village, situated at the edge of thick forest at the base of Kamchay mountain in Kampot district, is surrounded on all sides by picturesque scenery. But the lush habitat is also an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.

The rich soil turns to soupy mud during the wet season, and rainwater collects and stagnates in ruts gashed by car tires and carts in dirt roads. After days spent collecting fruit or wood, many villagers spend nights in the forest on the fog-shrouded mountain, where clouds of mosquitoes buzz in the darkness.

Kampot province, where the three villages of O’Toch, Kor Lileng and Koh Krabei are located, typically suffers a jump in malaria cases during the rainy months of June through September, said Dr Bun Thea, chief of the epidemiology department at the Health Ministry’s National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control.

But a delivery of 1,400 repellent-treated mosquito nets to the three villages Saturday has the potential to curb new cases of the disease among their 3,035 residents this rainy season. The NCPEMC recorded 3,628 cases of malaria in the province in 2005, and 74,185 in the entire country last year, Bun Thea said.

Bun Thea added that it is difficult to know the prevalence of malaria among the “mobile population”—such as those spending extended periods of time living in forests, where the chance of contracting malaria is higher.

Dr Mam Bun Heng, Health Ministry secretary of state, joined officials from the NCPEMC to distribute the nets, donated by the Cambodia Daily Mosquito Net Campaign, to 847 families during a ceremony held in O’Toch village.

Duong Socheat, director of NCPEMC, said that the public need for mosquito nets in the country is larger than previously thought, based on findings from the 2005 Cambodian Malaria Baseline Survey, which showed that those living up to 2 km from forests have an increased risk of contracting malaria.

“Before, we only covered 200 meters from the forest,” Duong Socheat said.

He added that the survey concluded that around 800,000 new mosquito nets are needed countrywide every year. This year, the government has supplied 70,000 nets to the NCPEMC, he said. Because the government is rarely able to accommodate the full demand, he says, the Cambodia Daily Mosquito Net Campaign is playing an important role in the lives of villagers.

Standing under a tarp stretched over the crowd to fend off rain, Mam Bun Heng explained to villagers the role that mosquito nets can play in staying healthy. He stressed the importance of using nets regularly, particularly for those spending nights in or very near the forest. He also reminded villagers to clear containers where rainwater can collect—tin cans, coconut shells, tires or other debris—from around their homes.

The doctor also took the opportunity to address other important health issues: alcohol, tobacco use, birth control and planned pregnancy. Speaking from the center of a dense ring of people, Mam Bun Heng encouraged villagers to use condoms in order to control the size of families and to space pregnancies. He then reminded them that alcohol and tobacco abuse can have serious implications for physical health and family stability.

“Alcohol is not medicine,” he said, adding that even alcohol to which medicinal herbs have been added can have damaging effects on the liver and other organs.