The Ministry of Health yesterday officially launched its ambitious campaign to deliver 2.7 million mosquito nets across the Kingdom as part of a multifaceted action plan to achieve a zero malaria death-rate by 2025.
“This will be the largest-ever mosquito net distribution campaign,” Health Minister Mom Bun Heng said. “If citizens use the nets the right way, we hope that malaria deaths will not be a concern by 2025.”
The first shipment of 700,000 nets arrived at Phnom Penh airport yesterday and will take one or two weeks to go through customs until distribution can begin in November, officials said. The nets will be distributed during November and December and will reach 20 provinces.
The cost of the initiative sits around US$14.4 million, the minister said. Those funds are being drawn from a $100 million grant Cambodia received in 2009 from GlobalFund to combat malaria.
Mom Bun Heng appealed to victims of the ongoing flooding to pay extra attention to their health.
“When the flooding goes down, people will face disease – and the malaria mosquito will be breeding in the wild areas,” he warned. “There will be diarrhoea, fever and malaria.”
In the first nine months of 2011, there were 43,991 reported malaria infections and 64 deaths, compared to 38,321 infections and 82 deaths in the same period last year, National Centre for Malaria director Char Meng Chuor said.
“The illness rate has increased 15 percent, but deaths are up 20 percent,” he said. “But we are always working to make the death rate zero.”
Malaria Control Cambodia officer Kheang Soy Ty said one of the biggest challenges would be getting the mosquito nets to the mobile and migrant worker population.
“Distribution workers will be conducting a household census to ask the land owners how many migrant workers they have on their farms, and then we will give the nets to the farmer based on the number of employees,” Kheang Soy Ty said.
Despite the government’s announcement two months ago that the net distribution would be happening, Kheang Soy Ty said the delay in implementation was due to sourcing problems.
“This is a huge number of nets – procurement has taken quite a while,” he said.
The Health Minister stressed that delivery of nets was not enough to combat malaria, but that people needed to make sure they used the nets correctly, and sought medical attention when needed.
Kheang Soy Ty agreed there was still a strong need for information on malaria control.
“But the government cannot do this themselves – this is a multi-supported effort,” he said. “We need NGOs and local authorities to be assisting with spreading the message.”