Officials, NGOs distribute condoms , avian flu warnings to provincial visitors
Health officials show festival goers how to unroll a condom.
BIRD flu has joined HIV/Aids as the second health scourge to be targeted during this year's Water Festival, NGO and government officials said this week as millions of people converged in Phnom Penh for the annual celebration.
Safe-sex drives have long been a feature of the Water Festival, which sees masses of provincial Cambodians - many of them unfamiliar with condom use - crowding into the capital and, in some cases, frequenting the city's many brothels.
The riverfront and adjoining parks were again the scene of health workers handing out thousands of free condoms, which have been instrumental in Cambodia's rise from one of the countries in Asia worst-affected by HIV/Aids to one that has dramatically curbed the rate of new infections.
"I believe now that a lot of people understand about HIV/Aids," said Hor Bun Leng, deputy secretary of the National Aids Authority.
But avian flu, which has so far killed at least six people in the Kingdom since 2003, has become part of the good health message being relayed up and down the riverside this week.
"We've run the [condom] campaigns every year during the Water Festival, but this year we received support from Unesco and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, which allowed us to hold one new program about bird flu," said Heap Vuth, director of the NGO Children Support Foundation (CSF), one of several organisations partnering with the government this year on a joint health initiative.
CSF volunteer Meng Vannak was making the rounds along the crowded Chruoy Changvar peninsula, which was teeming with boat crews and families.
"It's important for the government to enhance this campaign," he said.