The widespread distribution of bed nets and other Ministry of Health initiatives have brought about a continued decline in the amount of malaria cases and deaths.
But there has been one group of people not completely covered: those men from non-malaria areas who pack their gear up, leave their families and treated nets behind, and move into the forest to collect wood or hunt.
The mosquitoes that carry malaria live in those forests, not on the plains or in the paddies. So starting in September, following a pilot project by the National Malaria Center, hammock nets that include a tablet for treatment will be sold in remote provinces.
“If they are sleeping in the hammock, why not provide them with a treated net?” said Dr Seshu Babu, a program adviser at the malaria center.
A media campaign and a distribution program will begin in earnest, supplying provincial malaria centers and NGOs with nets and tablets that can be sold in markets or pharmacies, he said. If customers already have a net, they can buy a tablet separately.
Packets for sale will include one tablet and a plastic bag. The tablet dissolves in water, and the net is soaked. After it dries, it provides greater protection from mosquitoes, Babu said.
The basic message of the so-called “peaceful sleep” campaign will be that the purchase of treated hammock nets will provide hunters and woodcutters with protection at night so they can sleep better and be more productive in the daytime, Babu said.
The efforts of the National Malaria Center to decentralize, provide information and training in the provinces, and distribute nets and treatments to remote areas have all contributed to a steady decline in the number of malaria cases and deaths over the past few years.
In 1999, from January to May, 374 deaths occurred in 53,726 reported severe cases of malaria, according to Ministry of Health documents. During that same period in 2001, just 96 deaths occurred in 34,753 reported severe cases.
Those numbers reflect a decrease not only in the number of deaths, but also the percentage of deaths from severe cases, according to Dr Chea Nguon of the malaria center. In the first five months of 1999, 0.7 percent of severe cases ended in death. For the same time period this year, 0.28 percent of severe cases led to death.
In May 1999, there were 102 deaths from malaria. This year, there were only two reported deaths in May.