Kep’s Islanders Receive 1,000 Mosquito Nets Courtesy US Gov’t

Cambodia officials presented more than 1,000 mosquito nets to residents of Rabbit Island off the coast of Kep on Saturday, in the latest effort to eradicate malaria and prevent dengue fever within the pop­ular tourist destination.

The pink and blue nets came courtesy of the US government, by way of the Office of Defense Co­operation at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh.

US Army Major Christopher Mills heads the US end of the project, which offers humanitarian as­sistance in the form of mosquito nets, medical care and school and me­dical clinic renovations.

The nets are practical and a sign of overseas goodwill, Mills said. “A useful, simple item that can go anywhere.”

Residents from Rabbit Island and the nearby, but less populous, Po Island gathered for a mid-day beach ceremony. There, the nets were officially presented to dozens of families.

Mills, Kep Municipal Governor Has Saret and Dr Duong So­cheat, head of the National Ma­laria Cen­ter, were among the officials present.

About 100 island residents, po­lice and curious tourists clustered under palm shade while Duong Socheat explained the basics of ma­laria prevention. He emphasized the importance of staying away from mosquitoes in the evening, after 6 pm, and talked about the history behind how Cam­bodia has tried to combat mos­quito-borne diseases.

At least 10 malaria cases were reported on Rabbit Island at the end of 2007, Duong Socheat said by telephone Wednesday. Even so, the NMC aims to eliminate malaria from the country’s Gulf of Thailand isles.

Treatment can be challenging for island dwellers because a boat ride is required to reach the nearest hospital, he said, and Kep officials want to preserve the island’s safe reputation in order to keep money-spending tourists coming.

There were about 200,000 reported malaria cases in Cam­bodia in 2006, 396 of which were fatal, NMC data shows. In 2007, the number of deaths dropped by nearly half compared to the previous year.

“It’s good news we’re extracting,” Duong Socheat said. “We still need to go further.”

The US Embassy gave 30,000 nets to Cambodia citizens in 2006. In 2007, the embassy distributed 15,000.

This year, the US government will spend $130,000 purchasing mosquito nets locally, Mills said, adding that it plans to continue distributing them in Cambodia for the foreseeable future.

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