Malaria Team Helps Out Village That Time Nearly Forgot

May 30, 2002
By Brian Calvert
The Cambodia Daily


photo by Heng Sinith
Eric Vandenbrink, educational supervisor for Japan Relief for Cambodia's rural school project, helps distribute mosquito nets to villagers at Phum Thmei.

Stung Trang district, Kompong Cham province - Beyond the shadowy plantations of rubber and cashew trees, in the land of the honey-pineapple, rests Phum Thmei.

Wooden plank houses, all with thatched roofs, lie scattered at the end of a boggy path well-worn by ox-carts. It is a village that time has nearly forgotten. Lucky for the villagers, then, that the National Malaria Center has a better memory than that.
On Tuesday, a malaria center team visited the village to distribute mosquito nets here, re-supplying villagers after an initial visit two years ago.

Bed nets, which are treated with insecticide to protect villagers from the malaria-carrying mosquitoes that bite at night, can get old or torn or lost, and the treatment fades after about six months, said Yeang Chheang, a malaria adviser with the team.


Villagers had complained earlier this year that they needed new nets, passing their message through Bernard Krisher, chairman of Japan Relief for Cambodia and publisher of The Cambodia Daily. Krisher visited the village earlier this year to inspect a new school donated by JRC and to observe the initial stages of a paper-production project there.

The village is more than 7 km from its neighbors, isolated, but near the Sar trees, whose pulp can be used to make decorative paper lanterns, boxes and other knickknacks.The paper can then be sold around the world over the Internet.

Krisher told the National Malaria Center about the villagers' needs for new nets, and Tuesday's distribution came from nets donated by The Cambodia Daily Mosquito Net Campaign.

Villager Uch Phoeun, 50, said the village was glad to see the malaria team, which handed out 250 nets to waiting villagers while sneaking glances at the gathering rain clouds and secretly hoping a storm would not isolate the village until the next dry season.

Just a few years ago, malaria was among the chief causes of illness or death in the village, Uch Phoeun said.
"Before 2000, people depended on the smoke of their fires" to keep mosquitoes away, he said. "But while they sleep, the fire goes out."