banlung, Ratanakkiri province – The combined mosquito-net distribution efforts of NGOs working in northeastern Cambodia are helping to stop malaria and improve the lives of hill tribes.
Along with Health Unlimited are several other NGOs—including Non-Timber Forest Products, Carere, Adhoc, International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity, the Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees and World Concern—which are distributing mosquito nets in this province where malaria is the No 1 health problem.
Before there were net distributions, many malaria cases were seen, said Dan Chanthy of Non-Timber Forest Products. Once nets were given there was almost 100 percent usage by the people who received them, she said.
Charging a small amount of money for the nets is one way the NGOs have found increased use of the net.
When nets are free, sometimes the recipients tend not to regard it as highly as something they paid for, said Carolyn McCausland, community health officer for Health Unlimited. “The value of a net is much higher when you contribute toward it,” she said.
So, the NGOs are charging 500 to 1,000 riel for new nets, and 500 riel for reimpregnation of old nets. But, if a villager needs a net and is too poor to pay for it, a net is given, officials said.
Still, provincial health officials say more needs to be done to educate the hill-tribe people about the use of the nets to avoid getting bitten by the malaria-carrying mosquitoes. “They have the net but they don’t know how to use it,” said McCausland.
A delegation from the Malaria Consortium, an organization that is funded by the UK Department for International Development, was present for a meeting of the NGOs. Dr Sylvia Meek, head of the Malaria Consortium, and Bridget King, an education consultant for the consortium also visited with provincial health officials. The two from Britain were in Cambodia to inspect the work on malaria done by the World Health Organization, which is funded by the British foreign aid agency, and were accompanied on the tour of Ratanakkiri by
Dr Stefan Hoyer, WHO’s malaria control officer in Cambodia.
Provincial officials said that in addition to more health education, decentralization of the health system is needed. More authority and expertise is needed in the provinces to quickly deal with problems, said Dr Eng Kuninth, manager for communicable disease control in Ratanakkiri, which earlier this year experienced a deadly cholera outbreak. “People in Phnom Penh are busy, but the people here are sick and dying.”