Friday, February 17, 2012
Stomping Out Malaria in Africa
At long last I am back in Kedougou. I’m killing time ‘till the once weekly transport leaves to my village tomorrow, doing a little bit of work and a lot of floating in the Gambia river while my brain cools off from the intensity of the last couple weeks. I just got done a 10 day intensive seminar on malaria in Thies called Boot Camp III. Regular Peace Corps volunteers, Peace Corps Response people, professionals and staff came from 11 different African countries to participate in the event. Classes went all day long and late into the night (though the extra late sessions usually featured popcorn.. yes!). We covered topics such as the science of malaria transmission, vector control, advocacy, and behavior change. It was a huge, information overload, amazing introduction to everything malaria related.
Perhaps more importantly, though, it was a forum for collaboration and momentum building for Peace Corps and many of the main players in the malaria field. We met or Skyped folks from the Presidents Malaria Initiative, FHI, Malaria No More, and numerous serious researchers in the field. By the end of boot camp the different countries presented specific action plans to take back to their programs and national partners. It was amazing to be a part of, to feel the incredible momentum surrounding this continent wide initiative, and to map out Peace Corps’ role in the fight against malaria. Malaria currently kills between 750,000 and 1.2 million people a year, mostly children in Africa. But huge gains have been made in the last 10 years. And, if the global community continues its commitment to malaria control, we will have an unbelievable impact on child survival and children’s lives.
So, back in Kedougou, my buddy Ben and I are looking to adapt some of the information and strategies presented at boot camp to the regional level. Kedougou has by far the greatest burden of Malaria morbidity (almost 6x the national average) and mortality in Senegal. But we have an awesome bunch of volunteers and a huge amount of support from Peace Corps higher ups. So we’re getting ready for the next rainy season (though first we gotta make it through the fast approaching and oh-so-daunting hot season), trying out creative ways to mobilize the volunteer community and our villages in this important fight. We’ll be having summits, parties, classes and contests to educate people about malaria and prevention strategies. Too, we’ll be working with other Senegal volunteers to develop a post and re-distribution strategy to follow up on the universal net distribution campaigns that have swept Senegal in recent years. It is an exciting, exhilarating time to be here and be doing this work. I’ll be sure to share more as we go forward.