Malaria Information Campaign Draws Many Young Artists

June 6, 2002
By Michelle Vachon
The Cambodia Daily

When organizers planned their malaria information campaign for primary schools last year, they thought a drawing contest would be a good way to gauge students' grasp of the facts behind the disease. They planned to exhibit the drawings at the gallery of Irina Russian Restaurant.

They also felt art would encourage more students to join the contest. But they weren't prepared for the overwhelming response the organizers ran out of wall space.

The drawings are the size of this newspaper page. And it didn't matter that they were put up wallpaper style, with no spaces in between. The 20,000 entries still could not fit on the walls.

After all, placed side to side, this represents 6-km of artwork, said Roberto Garcia, co-director of the European Commission's Malaria Control Project.

The 11 winners of the drawing contest and their teachers were brought to Phnom Penh from Battambang, Kompong Thom, Kompong Cham and Preah Vihear provinces to attend an award ceremony Saturday in their honor.

Selection criteria in the contest included presenting accurate information on malaria, said Mey Bouth Denis, national co-director for the Malaria Control Project.

For example, showing only a forest to illustrate a high-risk area for malaria was not enough, he said. The picture had to include a person using a mosquito net in the forest, or mosquitoes biting people, or even a person getting sick, Mey Bouth Denis said.

Creativity in presentation and coloring also was a consideration in the selection process, said Bou Kheng Thavrin, chief of the Health Education Unit for the National Malaria Center.

The first prize went to Seng Dom Din, a fifth grade student from Svay Por commune in Battambang province. His drawing shows a man sleeping peacefully in a hammock under a mosquito net, in the middle of the forest. Seng Dom Din was awarded $350 to visit Siem Reap if he chose to do so. He had not made definite plans when asked in a recent conversation, but he said he was thinking of buying a bicycle.

Prizes for the 10 other winners included watches, compact disc players and cassette players. The winners also received 60 bed nets, 60 T-shirts and school materials for their classmates.

Minister of Health Hong Sun Huot, Minister of Women's and Veterans' Affairs Mu Sochua and European Commission charge d’affaires Aldo Dell’Ariccia were on hand to congratulate them.

The information campaign was an initiative of the Malaria Control Project, which operates in cooperation with the National Malaria Center. It involved the ministries of Education, Health and Women's Affairs and took place early this year in 625 primary schools in 17 malaria-prone districts.