ros ruan commune, Preah Vihear province – Life in this remote northern region of Cambodia has been tough for villagers. Hardship is evident in nearly everything, from the dusty soil that yields mediocre crops to the rutted roads that show signs of yearly washouts during the rainy season.
And it is evident on the faces of the villagers themselves. Lifetimes spent toiling in the sun has hardened them, darkened them. Yet elders say nothing worries them like malaria. They are old, they say, and have lived their lives. But they are concerned about the well-being of the children, who, like many Cambodians, could be susceptible to one of the country’s top killers, which last year accounted for a reported 608 deaths.
On Monday, the National Malaria Center distributed 600 nets to families from three villages in the commune, alleviating at least the fear of malaria in a part of the country that has known a lot of fear.
Up until 1998, it was nearly impossible to reach this remote cluster of villages, which have been carved out of the deciduous forest that carpet the region. Khmer Rouge guerrillas were still active here, the roads were often mined, and ambushes were not unlikely.
Now, peace and stability have come, and with them some development.
Neighboring Robib, less than an hour’s drive south from here, is the home of a pilot project by Bernard Krisher, chairman of Japan Relief for Cambodia and also the publisher of The Cambodia Daily.
Schools are being built here, outfitted with solar panels and linked to the Internet for education and telemedicine purposes.
It was on a trip here to see the Brad Washburn School in Ros Ruan earlier this year that Krisher was approached by villagers who told him their concerns about malaria.