koh kong town – Instead of standing guard along the border in Koh Kong province, soldiers are lying down, befallen by malaria, which is rife in this mountainous jungle region of Cambodia.
At the makeshift military base hospital (the crude collection of primitive and dilapidated barracks is actually a school) all the beds are full. Medicine to treat the patients is in short supply.
Colonel Kan Kang, the commander of the base, urged the Ministry of Health to provide the military with more support to combat malaria.
His pleadings were heard directly this week by Dr Ung Phirun, secretary of state for the Ministry of Health, and malaria control officials for the European Commission, the World Health Organization and the National Malaria Center, as well as officials from the US and French embassies. The delegation took a helicopter tour of Koh Kong province on Tuesday.
Ung Phirun said he understands the need for more support for the military. The ministry has enlisted the support of the EC’s Malaria Control program and NGOs to aid the soldiers, he said.
“Now with the end of the fighting, the NGOs are starting to pay attention to the health problems of the military,” Ung Phirun told officers gathered at a remote military base deep in the wooded hillsides of Thma Bang district in Koh Kong province. The base, about an hour’s helicopter flight out of Phnom Penh, is situated among several logging concessions in the area.
Mnom Samedy, commander at Thma Bang, said malaria is a big problem at his base because it is located in an area that receives heavy rains. The water pools up in the hills and valleys, providing a prime habitat for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. He asked that the Ministry of Defense be provided with more mosquito nets to protect soldiers and their families from the disease.
The helicopter carried 450 nets to the remote base, as well as medicine, malaria-testing dipsticks and insecticide.
In Koh Kong town, 700 nets were brought in by boat.
Boats also will play a role in improving public health care delivery in watery Koh Kong province. At a ceremony Tuesday in Koh Kong town, Roberto Garcia, national co-director of the EC Malaria Control program, handed over three outboard motor boats to the provincial health department. Garcia said a more stable security situation in the province will lead to more health NGOs locating there over the past year has helped the public health sector there and will . Currently there is one health NGO in Koh Kong, Italia NGO.