"After peace we really need to do something about this bug problem," grumbled
a guerrilla soldier in the jungles north of Siem Reap back in 1991.
He was not alone in despairing the problem of mosquito-born malaria which remains
one of the country's biggest causes of death.
The fearsome insect seems to be winning the race of who can out-resist who as drugs
struggle to combat new strains.
Prevention is better than cure and a new, low cost, environmentally friendly solution
has arrived in Cambodia, according to the owner of Indochine Health Products.
Hans Englehardt said his factory is making and selling "Mosbar", which
he says is an easy to use and effective mosquito repellent.
"It's non-toxic," said Hans as he licked a bar of Mosbar at the factory's
gala grand opening on Dec. 10. "But its a bit bitter so you may need three scotches
to kill the taste."
Hans and his wife Marguerite came to Phnom Penh over two years ago as shareholders
in an effort to rehabilitate the brewery in Sihanoukville.
After difficulties with their business partners the couple decided to strike out
on their own.
They had heard of Mosbar while living in Malaysia but it was a conversation with
a doctor here that prompted the idea to bring it to Cambodia.
"I was taking some malaria tablets one day and a malaria expert said you might
as well throw them away," said Marguerite .
The expert explained that to fully protect herself against all types of malaria she
would have to take four different kinds of medicine and face the health risk from
constant use of strong antibiotics.
Around the same time, the Australian inventor of Mosbar heard the Englehardts were
looking for business opportunities and he contacted them.
The Engelhardts bought the rights to produce the coconut-scented repellent in Cambodia,
Thailand, Vietnam and China.
They shopped around for a factory site and settled on a building at 139 Monireth
"The space was really too big for the factory," said Marguerite, "so
I said 'Lets open a restaurant too'."
Marguerite focused on setting up The Oasis, now famous for its Pavlova desserts,
while Hans tackled the problem of getting the factory up and running.
An initial capital investment of $150,000 saw Mosbars coming off the low-tech assembly
Twenty thousand bars have been produced to date and the factory has a capacity of
10,000 per day.
User friendly is the key to the product's success. After dipping the bar in some
water it is dabbed on exposed skin and rubbed in.
Hans says one rubbing will keep mosquitoes at bay for up to 12 hours and the bar
comes in a handy zip-lock plastic bag so it can be reused easily.
At 1500 riels per bar Hans says that you can protect yourself for a whole year for
only $11, the equivalent of two weeks of malaria tablets or 6-7 weeks supply of mosquito
The company plans to market the bar locally and has held discussions with the Ministry
"It's an obvious product of interest to the army," says Hans. "Almost
more important that having a bullet."
Regrettably, the soldiers on Cambodia's front lines know full well what Hans is talking