kampot province – Surrounded by picturesque mountains and lush forests, what contributes to Nam Dat Ampil village’s beauty is also a hazard for the residents.
The surroundings put the village at high risk for mosquito-transmitted diseases, especially malaria, said Dr Doung Socheat, director of the National Center for Parasitology, Etomology and Malaria Control.
The village was the site of the Malaria Center’s recent distribution of free mosquito nets. The center gave away 2,000 chemically treated nets Saturday provided by The Cambodia Daily Mosquito Net Campaign to more than 2,700 people from 689 families.
But for many it was already too late. Tan Nheoung was carrying the identification card of a neighbor who couldn’t make it to the distribution ceremony because the whole family was suffering from malaria.
Mr Nheoung said many villagers contract the disease when they are working in the forest but even staying out of heavily wooded areas is not enough.
“[S]ometimes when people still stay in the village they get sick also,” he said.
He added that many village children come down with malaria.
“It is really bad in the rainy season,” he said.
Nhat Sovan brought her 2-year-old daughter, Chanta, to the distribution ceremony. Ms Sovan said she was very happy to receive a mosquito net, as she had already fought through malaria once and now worries about her daughter’s safety.
“I am very happy because prevention is good,” said Pia Net as she waited with the other villagers to collect her net.
She added in the village, which is less than 10 years old, there are many mosquitoes, and she has known many residents who have contracted malaria.
Dr Socheat said that after a steady decline in malaria cases, the number of reported cases in the first quarter of 2009 has been higher than in the first quarter of 2008. According to the center, there were 17,722 recorded cases of malaria in Cambodia during the first three months of the year, which resulted in the death of 69 people, including 17 children.
Some reasons for the increase in the number of cases is the early start of the rainy season this year and the Malaria Center getting a late start on their net distribution campaign because of a shortage of chemicals used to treat the nets, he added.
Dr Socheat said the biggest problem encountered while trying to control malaria is the large transient population or migrant workers in Cambodia, who come in contact with malaria then take it with them when they move on. He added the Malaria Center is developing programs to better track these workers.
The second hurdle is the recent development of a new drug-resistant malaria strain, Dr Socheat said. The strain, which is thought to have developed along the Thai-Cambodian border, is starting to prove resistant to aretemisinin, the main drug used to fight malaria.
“We are starting to worry,” he said. “If this was one of the partner drugs we would find another one but this is the main one. This is a problem.”
A two-year Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant has been secured to study the drug-resistant strain near the Thai border, he added.
Dr Socheat said other ways to decrease the risk of mosquito-transmitted diseases include wearing long-sleeves, spraying insecticide, using mosquito coils and keeping a clean home, free of standing water. But sleeping under a mosquito net is the most effective way to prevent malaria, he added.
Since 1997, The Cambodia Daily campaign has donated more than 30,000 mosquito nets paid for by private donors around the globe. Along with the 2,000 nets distributed during the ceremony Saturday, another 387 nets will be distributed to 1,150 people living on four islands in Kep.
Dr Socheat said the Center has distributed mosquito nets in 19 provinces and makes annual visits to each province to reapply insecticide, repair or replace the nets.
“We want to thank The Cambodia Daily for their continued support of the mosquito net program,” Dr Socheat said.