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Malaria Myths Are Becoming a Thing of the Past

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A woman farmer in Pailin appeasing the land spirits. Pix by WHO/Chhean Nariddh Moeun

“YOU are drinking again, darling!” exclaims a Pailin villager to her husband. “Aren’t you afraid of having a stomach ache?”

“No, my dear, I feel a shiver in my backbone,” replies the man to his missus. “I am just drinking once in a while lest I get malaria.”

This song lyric from the 1970s is just one of the many myths some Cambodians have of malaria and how they can protect themselves. However, many people across the country have other more common myths and superstitions about malaria.

For many Cambodians on the move, going into a new cleared area in the forest could mean sickness – not because of malaria, but due to the belief that they have not adapted to the new land and climate. Others believe that drinking water from the stream that flows in a ‘new land’ will also make them ill. Cambodians would call this illness “Chanh Teuk, Chanh Dei” in Khmer instead of “Krun Chanh” or malaria.

Forays into the forest also have their fair share of superstitions. For instance if Cambodians have fever after a stint in the jungle, they would blame it on a spell or curse cast by the forest spirits. They would call this sickness “Chanh Neakta.”

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Written by malariacontainment

September 10, 2010 at 10:00 am