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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – September 16, 2002: Vietnam and Malaria - 2002-09-13

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The World Health Organization reports a malaria control program in Vietnam has reduced the number of cases by ninety percent.

The Roll Back Malaria study was carried out over five years in Vietnam’s southern Phan Tien village. Officials say several methods were used to prevent and control the deadly disease.

Mosquito insects spread malaria. The disease can cause fever, head pain, stomach sickness and uncontrollable shaking. The most deadly form of malaria often causes a severe lack of iron in the blood. This is the most common reason for death from the disease.

All villagers in the study were given special material, or nets, to cover their beds while they slept. These bednets were treated with chemicals to kill mosquitoes. Research shows that children who sleep under such bednets are fifty percent less likely to get malaria.

In addition, a community-based healthcare system was set up to provide early identification and quick treatment of malaria. Ten community members were also appointed as health co-workers. Each year, they carried out malaria studies at the end of the rainy season. The community health workers also taught the villagers how to avoid malaria infection or seek treatment. At the end of the five-year program, the number of villagers with malaria infection in their blood dropped from forty-two percent to four percent.

Kamini Mendis is the top advisor in the W-H-O Roll Back Malaria program. Doctor Mendis says community involvement is necessary to guarantee success. This is especially true in farming areas where there are few health services.

Doctor Mendis says other villages in Vietnam are now carrying out the Roll Back Malaria program. The W-H-O also believes the program can be used successfully in Africa and other malaria-infected parts of the world. Up to two-million people around the world die each year of malaria. Most victims are young children living in Africa south of the Sahara Desert.

Since the development of chemically-treated bednets in the nineteen-eighties, no new method of controlling malaria has been discovered. Bednets reduce malaria infection, but they cannot prevent or control the disease on their own. So the W-H-O says identification and treatment are also important.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.


Adapted from a VOA story by Lisa Schlein