Anti-Malaria Drive Launched for Khmer Rouge Defectors

Khmer Rouge defectors from the former rebel stronghold of Anlong Veng are getting help this week to fight malaria.

Health workers from the Na­tional Malaria Center and the World Health Organization have been distributing mos­quito nets and treating malaria patients in the Khmer Rouge defectors’ camp of O Bai Tap about 60 km northeast of Siem Reap, said Dr Duong Socheat, vice director of the National Ma­laria Center.

Approximately 5,000 mosquito nets, soaked in an insecticide non-toxic to humans, have been designated for distribution to those displaced people who left Anlong Veng in March.

The nets have been provided by the European Community Hu­manitarian Office, as part of an endowment of 30,000 nets to former Khmer Rouge areas all over Cambodia.

Once their mission to O Bai Tap is completed, the health workers hope to travel on to An­long Veng village, if weather permits, to give nets to those returning home. After that, the group will move north to another defector camp at Preah Vihear temple on the Thai border.

Last week, aid organizations counted approximately 5,000 people in O Bai Tap. The Cambodian Red Cross estimates about 2,000 people have now returned to Anlong Veng village after fleeing in March. Another 1,000 are sheltering at the camp in Preah Vi­hear.

Another 13,000 former Khmer Rouge are thought to have

cros­sed the border into Thailand and are sheltering in refugee camps there. While the 5,000 nets being distributed this week are sufficient for all those currently in the area, more nets will need to be found for the returning refugees when they eventually make the move home.

Former Khmer Rouge in O Bai Tap are now being encouraged to return home by the government and aid organizations. Many of these Khmer Rouge defectors have been moving through ma­larial areas without medicine or malaria nets, malaria workers said.

Malaria strains in the northwest of Cambodia and along the Thai border are some of the most virulent in the world and have exhibited drug-resistance to chloro­quine, the first-line attack against the parasite that causes the disease.

The number of cases of mala­ria last year is up nationwide by 60 percent from 1996.

The Cambodia Daily Mosquito Net Campaign has been collecting money to help the National Malaria Center buy mosquito nets and insecticide.

The Ministry of Health’s Na­tional Malaria Center depends on the help of NGO partners in the purchase and distribution of ma­laria supplies to remote areas of the country.

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