Malaria Center Hands Out 4,000 Mosquito Nets in Snuol

October 2, 2003
By Nick Engstrom

The Cambodia Daily

snuol district, Kratie province - On Dec 2, 1978, in this forest surrounding the Snuol rubber plantation near the Vietnam border, Heng Samrin, Hun Sen and their soldiers gathered to plan the ousting of the Khmer Rouge regime.  

Almost 25 years later, National Malaria Center Director Doung Socheat and his associates have traveled here for the less dramatic task of handing out about  

4,000 mosquito nets in an area home to one of the highest malaria transmission rates in Cambodia.  

The Malaria Center started handing out nets here two years ago, and it has reported a decrease in the number of malaria cases in the area. It supplies mosquito nets because the rubber plantation does not provide nets to its employees.  

The government owns the rubber plantation, and the rubber plantation owns four of the seven villages surrounding it, including the village of Chivat where the mosquito nets were to be handed out.  

Chivat is filled with impoverished families. The trees in the forest have been slashed repeatedly for what the people here call white gold, a latex sap collected by the workers who start in the forest at 4 am.  

Administrators from the rubber plantation and the health center met the center staff at the main meeting house, which, like the rubber plantation factory announcement board, was adorned with CPP bulletins and posters. Doung Socheat and his team handed out T-shirts and caps with the silhouette of a large mosquito hovering over a map of Cambodia.  

The health center director, Bun Sreu, said malaria reached everyone in the village.  

"One cannot differentiate between the forest and the village, the two are the same," they explained through Doung SocheatŐs translation. They said that August is the worst month for malaria here, and there were 11 malaria cases in August this year.  

Doung Socheat said the villagers appreciate the nets not just because they keep out the mosquitoes, but because they noticed that the insect repellent with which the mosquito nets can be treated also eliminates other insects where they sleep, such as lice. He laughed.  

"These people want to use insecticide everywhere, but they are only allowed to treat the bed nets to prevent waste," Doung Socheat said.  

By afternoon, it was time to hand out the nets. A teenager banged a gong with an ax blade, and the women and children congregated in the dirt driveway in front of the meeting house. The men were still working in the forest. As the names of villagers were called, women with their children gradually walked up, took one, two or three nets, depending on the size of their family, and said "thank you" before walking away.