Medics distribute mosquito nets in Cambodia

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Adam Johnston
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
Tech. Sgt. Bryan Gray spent the morning of May 20 handing out 300 mosquito nets to three Cham-Muslim villages near here, something he said is extremely rewarding.

“To help poor people by giving them something that will help them from getting sick is rewarding. Especially since there is no medical care available for many of them,” said Sergeant Gray, a biomedical equipment repair technician with the 18th Medical Support Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan.

Sergeant Gray is here until May 28 as part of a 20-person blast resuscitation and victim assistance team on a humanitarian medical mission.

The nets are used to help stop the spread of malaria and occasional outbreaks of Dengue fever, said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Sid Brevard, medical director for the team.

“Malaria is an ongoing problem in this part of the world,” Dr. Brevard said. “About 98 percent of the people live in open houses where mosquitoes fly in and out. The mosquito nets are vital to protect families and children from mosquitoes.”

This is the fourth humanitarian mission of its type in Cambodia. U.S. military medics have also done similar work in Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

“We’ve been to some very remote parts of the world and passed out netting, and it’s amazing to see the faces when you give something as simple as bed nets,” Dr. Brevard said. “It’s a very easy way to show our support in this part of the world.”

This year, U.S. Pacific Command officials spent $127,000 on about 57,000 nets, said Army Maj. Marc Harrelson, chief of the office of defense cooperation with the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Phen, Cambodia. Major Harrelson said the treated mosquito net program for malaria prevention began in 2000.

“Since 2000 (more than) $500,000 has been spent on the program,” he said.

The idea behind the net donations is simple, said Lt. Col. Diep Duong, the team’s leader.

“We usually try to hand out the nets under a one-net-per-family concept,” she said. “Handing out nets is a preventive public-health measure that is low cost and culturally acceptable, and something they are more likely to use. It’s also a very cost-effective way to help out in this part of the world. The nets cost about $2 or $3 [each] which is about 10 percent of their monthly income.

The nets are being distributed to three groups here: former Khmer Rouge, Khmer and Cham-Muslim.

As he was handing out nets under sweltering heat conditions, Sergeant Gray said he met one boy in a Cham-Muslim village who spoke English.

“He said, ‘Speak slowly please,’” Sergeant Gray said.

While the two talked, Sergeant Gray asked him how he learned English, and the boy said he learned at school.

“I like to see the kids going to school,” Sergeant Gray said.

As he turned to leave the village, the boy who spoke English looked up at Sergeant Gray and said, “Thank you.”