Plantation 'Cursed By Malaria' Gets Much-Needed Bed Nets

October 9, 2003
By Nick Engstrom
The Cambodia Daily

One of the largest donations from The Cambodia Daily Mosquito Net Campaign occurred at the Snuol rubber plantation last month. About 3,450 new nets were handed out to 1,641 families 7,750 people in three communes in the Snuol district of Kratie province.

More than 150 liters of K Otrin insect repellent used to dye the nets were also donated, and 450 used nets were treated with repellent. Nearly 4,000 newly effective nets were distributed to the villagers.

This is a mere first step in the National Malaria Center's five-year plan, in coordination with the World Health Organization, to significantly reduce the malaria transmission rate in affected areas across the country. Officials estimate that they will need 200,000 nets a year.

But money has been scarce all year. Funds from the government are late. The World Bank and the Global Fund promised to donate money in May, but haven't delivered the funds yet. Chan Vanna, the National Malaria Center coordinator for net distribution, said he thinks the ongoing formation of the new government may have made the two organizations skittish.
The National Malaria Center did not travel to the provinces for several months this year, partly because of impassable roads and partly due to the lack of insect repellent for dyeing the nets. And there was the question of financing the trips themselves.
"The last time we went to Snuol, we searched for petty cash to fill the gas tank. We couldn't wait any longer for donations," Chan Vanna said.

Snuol was an emergency case. All of the new and retreated nets were handed out in three days, when distribution of that magnitude usually takes at least a week.

Snuol is a place "cursed by malaria," as Chan Vanna put it. Before the malaria center first started distributing nets in Snuol, it tested the villagers over a period of 20 days during the rainy season. They discovered 100 malaria cases.

A year after handing out nets, they studied the malaria rate during the rainy season for two months and found that the transmission rate had declined a little.

In Snuol, some workers are so poor that they don't sleep in their huts with their families at night, and instead go to work cutting the bark to collect the latex sap from the trees. Chan Vanna said they sleep in the trees or return to their huts at 3 am to sleep for an hour. At 4 am, they return to work.

However, there is hope for malaria awareness and precaution in rural areas. "Some seem to be knowledgeable about the danger of malaria," Chan Vanna said.

"I recently noticed that former members of the Khmer Rouge bought many nets for themselves and their families," he said.