1,905 Mosquito Nets Distributed to Kompong Speu Villagers

By Lee Berthiaume
March 17, 2005

Aural district, Kompong Speu province - Tang Bampong village residents smiled as I stood beside a pile of mosquito nets on the ground, awaiting distribution.
This Friday morning, I had accompanied members of the National Malaria Center for a three-and-one-half hour drive from Phnom Penh, to present these nets to the villagers.

On the way to this remote community located in the middle of the Aural Wildlife Sanctuary in Kompong Speu province, I had spotted dozens of ox carts loaded with cut wood.

I was told that the villagers here are farmers, and they also work in the forest, often far from their homes. As a result, they often return to the village late in the day and then cook supper and enjoy their limited leisure time in the early evening, when malaria-infected mosquitoes come out to feed.

"Mosquitoes are like tigers," said Prak Dara, deputy director of Kompong Speu's malaria program. "They come at night to bite you." Residents of Tang Bampong and surrounding villages know they can catch malaria from mosquito bites, he said, "but they do not change their habits" of getting home late in the
day.

Suon Seila, deputy director of the technical bureau at the National Malaria Center, said many villagers have no choice but to work late in the day and far from home, thus risking the chance of contracting malaria.

"They are poor, they work hard and maybe they cannot afford to change their habits," he said.

While cases of dengue fever, which is also spread through mosquitoes, are rare in Tang Bampong, there have been several reported cases of malaria.When malaria cases arise, patients have to be brought to Kompong Speu town—at least an hour's drive away, a journey which many villagers cannot afford, Prak Dara added.
Prak Dara said the villagers wear long clothing to prevent mosquito bites, but otherwise there is little they can do. The mosquito nets, purchased from donations to The Cambodia Daily's Mosquito Net Campaign, would give hundreds of families here some added protection against the deadly disease.

By the end of that Friday, 1,905 nets were distributed to five local villages to protect the villagers at night. Even with the nets, however, many people will continue to be at risk as long as they have to work hard in remote areas to feed themselves and their families.