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PakBatt Beats Malaria

PakBatt Beats Malaria

TBENG MEANCHAY-While the Pakistani Battalion was packing up to depart from this Khmer

Rouge-surrounded provincial capital, with lumbering Mi-26's gracefully lifting away

15 tons of gear thrice daily to Battambang, the chief medical officer of the Azmiri

Kashmir Battalion proudly noted on Aug. 16 that one of their most important successes

during UNTAC was keeping the troops healthy.

"Our greatest accomplishment was beating malaria," said Maj. Badshah Zaidi.

"We only had seven cases compared to 2,657 for the rest of UNTAC."

The battalion, originally based in Samrong in Siem Reap Province and since January

in Tbeng Meanchey in Preah Vihear, was based in what is recognized as one of the

world's worst areas for drug-resistant malaria. The local population is widely infected

with the deadly disease.

Zaidi credits British Gen. Slim of the Burma campaign during World War II with one

of the reasons the Pakistanis were so successful in avoiding malaria. It was Slim

who initiated taking anti-malaria medicine as a function of daily military drill.

"The troops are lined up every evening and the tablets are thrown in their mouths

and then forced to drink it down," said Zaidi. "We don't even trust it

in their hands."

Soldiers were also under orders to wear long sleeve shirts and long pants at all

times, which contrasts readily with other UNTAC personnel in Preah Vihear who can

be seen working in shorts and t-shirts.

The battalion's medical team also undertook extensive fogging programs wherever soldiers

were based, cleared camps of any vegetation or standing water and strictly controlled

the disposal of garbage.

Zaidi also points to other health successes for the Pakistanis. While UNTAC has recorded

4,450 cases of sexually transmitted diseases, the Pakistanis have recorded none.

He says that, being Muslims, battalion members are prohibited both by military law

and religion from womanizing.

"There were 300 Vietnamese prostitutes waiting for us when we arrived in Tbeng

Meanchey," says Zaidi. "When they found out we were Muslims they packed

up and left."

"It all comes down to one word," said Zaidi, reflecting contentedly on

what he says is the reason for the health of the Pakistanis, "Discipline!"

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