Deadly Disease Hits Cambodia’s Young Men Most Often

pailin – Round drops of sweat and the feverish chills of malaria were not enough to keep 16-year-old Rhime Roan away from the main attraction in the small village of Sala Krau here last month.

Doctors from the Battambang health de­partment, World Health Or­ganization, and the European Community were here to test for malaria among the children in this remote village 12 km east of the Thai border.

The doctors were examining the village children in order to find out whether malaria is en­dem­ic to the area. Rhime Roan, shi­vering under a towel, was also examined even though he would normally be considered too old to be included in the test group.

Rhime Roan is one of 2 million young adult males in Cambodia at risk of contracting malaria be­cause they work as migrant la­borers in the forests, military or gem mines, according to the World Bank.

Only one child and Rhime Roan tested positive for malaria, leading health officials to say that malaria transmission in Sala Krau may be confined to those working in the forests. Rhime Roan said he had just come back from a two-week job cutting trees 10 km north of his village.

Statistics from the National Malaria Center’s recently re­­leased 1997 year-end report show that 82 percent of all confirmed malaria cases in Cambodia last year were among patients older than 14. The report says the number of cases increased last year be­cause a greater number of young adults now work as mi­grant laborers in high-risk areas.

In northwest Cambodia, the si­tu­ation is especially severe be­cause of reports of malaria strains resistant to chloroquine, a drug considered a first line of defense against the disease.

Jim Farrow, a health consultant with the World Bank, said the Ministry of Health will promote hammock nets among the mi­grant population. The long nets wrap around the hammock and can be carried easily into the fo­rest by the migrant laborer.

The National Malaria Center plans to sell 60,000 of these nets this year with the help of a nationwide marketing program funded by World Bank credit. The $2.7 million project will promote the hammock nets with social service announcements and adverti­sing over the next five years. Mar­keters will target Cambodia’s young males, explaining how and why to use hammock nets.

Rhime Roan said neither he nor his 10-year-old brother who went with him on the trip to the forest took any malaria precautions. “We slept in the forest at night,” Rhime Roan said. “We did not bring a mosquito net.”

Rhime Roan said last month that his brother was in a nearby vil­lage with his grandmother suffering from an advanced case of malaria.

Doctors gave Rhime Roan mef­loquine, an alternative to chloroquine tablets, and expected him to make a full recovery.

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