Malaria Infection an Everyday Worry for Samlot Residents

Aug 23, 2001

By Phann Ana and Matt McKinney
The Cambodia Daily

samlot district, Battambang province - In the view of Meanchey Commune Chief Chuon Saloeun, the malaria problem is not too bad this year.

Only six people in his commune of 1,795 have died so far, he said.

The commune chief claims that 80 percent of the population tests positive for the malaria virus, but says it's not so bad.

Only 30 percent of the cases are serious, he said.

Malaria is one of the top killers of the adult Cambodian population, and in the hardest-hit regions people measure progress by the number of dead.

Chemically treated bed nets distributed by the Red Cross for no charge last year have cut down on malaria cases in Chuon Saloeun commune, making Chuon Saloeun optimistic, despite the continued string of deaths.

The six deaths recorded in Meanchey commune so far this year are better than the 15 or so who died every year before the net donations, Chuon Saloeun said.

In Meanchey commune, the victims are often people who move to the area from lowland regions such as Takeo or Kampot, the chief said. Most of the people who were born in the commune do not get seriously sick from malaria, but newcomers who have not adjusted to the local variety of malaria are more at risk, he said.

Just up the road from the Srey Chipeou village office, newcomers shaking with malaria in their newly built shacks prove him right.

Ran Mao, 23, and his wife Preun Veun, 22, married three months ago in Kandal province and moved to Samlot district to grow peanuts. They both have malaria, and last week Ran Mao traveled to a health clinic in Srey Chipeou for medicine.

I am worried about my life, and worried about malaria, but we donŐt have any money to go back. We came here to plant peanuts in the jungle. There is no plantation like this at home,Ó he said.

The couple has a mosquito net and uses it every night, but they frequently wander into the jungle in the evening, just as the Anopheles Minimus and Anopheles Dairus mosquitoes are becoming active.

The two species are the main malaria carriers in Cambodia, with female mosquitoes biting most frequently between 9 pm and 3 am, researchers say.

Nuon Setton, deputy governor of Samlot district, said not as many people are dying as before, but the infection rate is still almost 100 percent.

It's about 95 percent of the population, when they get a medical check they have the malaria virus, Nuon Setton said. People here do not have enough mosquito nets.

A new health care center in Samlot village, built by World Vision, has helped ease the crisis, he said, but a lot more needs to be done before people here will stop dying from the malaria virus.