Making net gains against malaria spread

The following work continues and the province of Stung Treng has one of the lowest rates of malaria in 2008 due to YWAM’s work in the province.

From the website CAMBODIA DAILY–

Behind the dry technical name vector control lies the most potent weapon in Cambodia’s medical arsenal against malaria the distribution of free mosquito nets in areas where the disease is most prevalent. Started in 1992, the net distribution program is the brainchild of the Cambodia National Malaria Center (CNM), supported by the World Health Organization and an array of NGOs which operate in remote areas of the country where the incidence of the disease is highest.

The Cambodia Daily, for its part, has launched its own campaign to collect donations and distribute nets to areas where they are most badly needed. Last week, The Daily delivered 380 nets‹worth a total of $1,900 to Kompong Speu province.

The kinds of mosquito nets available for distribution include family-sized ones, worth approximately $3.80 each. There are also single-sized and special hammock mosquito nets, which cost close to $3.00 and $2.00 each respectively.

Dr Doung Socheat, Vice Director of the malaria center, explains that the nets are treated with an insecticide named K-Othrine, which remains effective for eight months to one year, before needing to be replenished.

Dr Doung Socheat says that program workers perform the initial application of the insecticide ‹along with repeats in front of the net recipients, a demonstration meant to teach people how to do the operation themselves.

“The insecticide kills not just mosquitoes,” he says. “It also kills ants and lice, and other kinds of insects. People say that they are happy with the stuff.”

The malaria center has chosen as the focus of its distribution efforts remote forest villages where the risk of malaria is highest. It is estimated that close to 500,000 Cambodians, or five percent of the country¹s population, inhabit such places. Many of them belong to ethnic minority groups.

According to Dr Doung Socheat, the CNM’s goal is to cover two to three provinces each year, and to help reach that goal, the center has come to rely on a number of NGOs that are already operating in provincial areas. The NGOs include groups such as the Lutheran World Service (LWS), WHO, and Youth With A Mission (YWAM).

The LWS, for example, conducts humanitarian and relief work in northern parts of Cambodia near the Thai border. Philip Wijmans, an LWS spokesperson, says that the center’s distribution program was deemed to be compatable with his organization¹s existing activities, so it routinely began to hand out nets two years ago to families.

“As the Khmer Rouge defections continued,we got more involved” he says. “In those areas sheltered away from the world, there are no schools or health facilities. Malaria seemed to be quite serious. We heard that there were 78 malaria deaths in that area alone. We happened to know the area, so we started taking the nets.”

YWAM, for its part, has an ongoing program in Strung Treng province to train local medical staff how to correctly diagnose and treat malaria. As a result, according to organization staff member Philip Scott, YWAM began distributing nets in the same area on a trial basis starting last year.

“People take them and they use them. The number of nets that get resold is really small. People really want them,” Scott says. “Malaria is the biggest health concern in the province, because Strung Treng is one of the worst provinces in Cambodia for malaria. One of the villages here takes the record in all of Indochina, and nets are the most successful means of prevention. A lot of people still do not understand that malaria comes from mosquitoes.”

Dr Doung Socheat says that the center distributed a total of 40,000 nets for distribution in 1996, but has managed to hand out close to 50,000 nets during the first seven months of 1997, despite the factional fighting which broke out in Cambodia last month.

As a result of the strife, according to Doung Socheat, the center was forced to put the distribution program on hold temporarily.

“There are some areas where we cannot go safely at the moment. All we can do is wait until it is safe to visit there,” he says.

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