memot district, Kompong Cham Province – Surrounded by verdant, damp forests his entire life, Sin Bieu, has contracted malaria more times than he can remember.
After all, he has lived amid this favored breeding ground for mosquitoes for all of his 59 years.
In Memot district, roughly 10 km from the Vietnamese border, fertile soil and heavy rains make this area ideal for farm crops ranging from cashews to rubber plantations.
But for workers on such farms, neatly aligned rows of trees bring much more than crops, said Duong Socheat, director of the National Malaria Center.
The dense trees and shaded areas are where mosquitoes prefer to breed, and where workers and nearby villagers become exposed to malaria, he said.
On Sunday, families from Kravien Cheung, Khmuor and Kbal Sleng villages gathered at the Kravien Cheung pagoda where Kompong Cham provincial officials discussed malaria prevention and care with locals.
Sin Bieu’s family was one of 327 households from Choam Kravien commune who received insecticide-treated mosquito nets for free through funds provided by the Cambodia Daily Mosquito Net Campaign.
Nhey Sam Ang, chief of cabinet of Memot district, spoke at the pagoda, urging villagers to seek treatment if symptoms of malaria develop and to make use of a newly-built health center and roads in the area. He also encouraged villagers to improve hygiene, and suggested ways to dispose of and avoid stagnant water where mosquitoes thrive.
“The rainy season is important for malaria. Even if you have a net to protect from bites,” Nhey Sam Ang said, “you also need to destroy the breeding site.”
Until last week, Sin Bieu said that only about half of the people in his village owned mosquito nets. The others were too poor to afford one, he said.
But simply owning a mosquito net does not eliminate malaria, Duong Socheat warned. It is equally important that the net be treated with insecticide every 10 months, he said.
The National Malaria Center plans to return to the commune with free insecticide next year to re-treat the villagers’ mosquito nets, Duong Socheat said.
On Sunday, a total of 643 bed nets were distributed to families in Choam Kravien commune by the National Malaria Center with the support of provincial and local officials.
To lighten the tone of the educational talk, Nguon Sam An, director of the Kompong Cham Provincial Health Department, warned villagers to use the nets to stop mosquitoes and not to catch fish in nearby rivers.
“Be careful,” he said, “don’t use your mosquito net for fishing.”