Millions of Cambodians are set to receive insecticide-treated mosquito nets as part of a government-led effort to mitigate the risk of malaria and dengue fever.
"This is Asia's largest-ever distribution of mosquito nets. It will cover over 4,000 villages in 20 provinces in Cambodia," Steven Bjorge, malaria team leader at The World Health Organization (WHO) Cambodia, told IRIN on 14 November. "The goal is to ensure that every person at risk of contracting malaria has a mosquito net by the end of the year."
The US$14.5 million project to distribute 2.7 million nets is funded by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The nets will be distributed by the National Malaria Control Centre with technical assistance from WHO.
Speaking at the launch on 7 November in the remote northeastern province of Kratie, Health Minister Mom Bun Heng told about 1,000 residents: "It is urgent that we help people living in forest areas as they are at great risk of contracting malaria, particularly after the recent flooding."
The project aims to distribute 785,000 insecticide-treated nets in six provinces this month, including three of those hit hardest by the worst flooding in more than a decade.
According to the National Committee for Disaster Management, the floods killed about 250 people and affected about 10 percent of the country's population, or 1.5 million people.
Out of 18 provinces affected by floods, Kandal, Kampong Thom, Prey Veng and Kampong Cham remain the hardest-hit, with relief organizations still finding it difficult to reach many affected communities. More than 250,000 displaced people have reportedly returned to their places of origin, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated on 10 November.
"This distribution of insecticide-treated nets is also necessary in the aftermath of the floods. As the waters recede we expect malaria to rise within six to eight weeks as malaria-carrying mosquitoes start breeding in pools of stagnant water," Bjorge said. "So these bed nets will help the flood-affected people protect themselves against malaria."
In December, 1,915,000 insecticide-treated nets will be distributed in 13 provinces, the health ministry said.
The National Malaria Centre has also planned a workshop to set national treatment guidelines for malaria at the end of this month. "Cambodia has yet to adopt a single first-line Artemisinin combination treatment for malaria," WHO's spokesman, Sonny Inbaraj Krishnan, said.
In western Cambodia, the combination first-line treatment is dihydroartemisinin-piperaquin (DHA-P) and in the rest of Cambodia Artemisinin-Melfoquine (A+M) is used. "A+M is not used in western Cambodia because the malaria parasites there are resistant to Melfoquine," Krishnan said.
In the first nine months of 2011, there were 43,991 reported malaria infections and 64 deaths, compared with 38,321 infections and 82 deaths in the same period last year, the National Centre for Malaria reported.
According to WHO, in 2000, the number of treated malaria cases in Cambodia stood at 129,167 with 608 deaths. In 2010, that dropped to 56,217 and 135 deaths, down 78 percent.
At the Cambodian National Health Congress in March, Prime Minister Hun Sen set a target for eliminating deaths from malaria by 2015, and infections by 2025.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions