Early Departure Doesn't Mar Mosquito Net Distribution

February 27, 2003
By Bill Bryan
The Cambodia Daily

Damei Phong village, Kampot province - My job as a copy editor doesn't get me out of the office much, so I welcomed the opportunity to join the National Malaria Center staff last week as they distributed mosquito nets in this remote village.
Of course, I didn't know we would be leaving Phnom Penh at 5:30 am for a 4-1/2-hour trip. That's no small task for a night-owl like me.

Damei Phong sits at the base of a mountain 20 km off of National Route 3 in a region of Kampot province that five years ago was controlled by the Khmer Rouge. To get there, we drove down a narrow road, littered with rocks, that cut through groves of coconut, sugar palm and banana trees.

We brought a second Landcruiser packed with pink and blue mosquito nets for the 390 people who live in the 65 households in the village.

We were met by the village chief, Yim Tanh, 48, who explained how malaria had in the past been a serious problem in Damei Phong because many of the villagers work in the forests nearby, where the malaria-carrying mosquitoes thrive.

Two years ago, when villagers were first tested, 70 out of 100 tested positive for malaria, National Malaria Center Director Doung Socheat said. In the latest tests, however, only four in 100 people tested positive.

Doung Socheat attributed the sharp decline to the center's education efforts, rapid diagnostic testing and the bednet program.

"How much do you earn a day?" he asked one man.

"Three thousand riel," the man replied.

"If you are sick with malaria just two days, that's 6,000 riel (about $1.50) in lost pay, not including what you have to pay the doctor," Doung Socheat said. "If your wife works and she has to stay home to care for you, she loses her wages, too."