Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Malaria Month Progress

One way to appreciate the impact of our malaria activities in Guinea is by the numbers. We are religious about collecting data on the work we do so that we can constantly evaluate and improve our work. The Malaria Coordinators (ten volunteers who have been selected to lead malaria efforts in their work zones) are still collecting the vast majority of the data from the volunteers in their zones, so it will be a couple weeks before we have the final numbers. However, I’d like to briefly touch upon a few impressive activities that were done in Guinea to give you a taste!

On April 27th, Peace Corps Education Volunteer Dante Bugli hosted 19 other volunteers at his site in Wonkifong for a full day of malaria events. Volunteers first gave educational talks at the local school, including a short skit, to four classes of middle school students, reaching a total of 181 students. Afterward, in the school courtyard all students participated in a malaria-themed fair at which they learned how to wash and repair mosquito nets, took photos of themselves with anti-malaria slogans written on their hands, and contributed to a banner by writing “J’aime ma moustiquaire” (I love my mosquito net). Earlier in the week, Dante had worked with three other volunteers to train a group of 30 college students as peer educators. On Saturday, these students split up into six groups and went door-to-door in the community with Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs), giving educational talks and helping to hang mosquito nets. In a few short hours, the groups visited over 60 households, reaching a total of 278 women (23 of which were pregnant, an important number since pregnant women are much more susceptible to malaria then
the general population) and 93 men with malaria messages. At the same time, several PCVs set up a malaria-themed stall at the local market, where they had in-depth conversations with 15 market sellers, leading an educational talk with visual aids and messages translated into the local language of Susu. These PCVs also demonstrated how to wash and repair mosquito nets. Finally, the day ended with a soccer match between PCVs and local Red Cross volunteers, which included a halftime malaria skit in local language by actors from the village of Wonkifong. In attendance for the day’s events were Peace Corps Guinea director Julie Burns and US Ambassador Alexander Mark Laskaris. Although the Peace Corps team lost the match 1-0, their Guinean opponents did not score a goal.

In early April, Peace Corps Public Health Volunteer Megan Townsend conducted a two-day training of trainers on malaria prevention with her local CECOJE, or youth group. Upon completion, the new peer educators began home visits in the community to give educational talks on malaria. The peer educators used a “boîte à images,” or visual aid produced by Peace Corps partner Faisons Ensemble with funding from the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). Over the course of 5 days, the peer educators visited 45 households, spreading life-saving malaria information to 258 Guineans. Megan worked with the local health facility to develop a referral form that the peer educators used during their home visits to refer community members with fever to the health center for diagnosis/treatment. They capped off their activities by setting up a stall at the weekly market, where they reached at least 200 people with malaria information.

On April 20th, Peace Corps Education Volunteer Elizabeth Chadwick invited 12 other volunteers from all sectors to her site for an all-day malaria extravaganza which included school visits, educational talks and culminated in a soccer match. The volunteers started the day at Liz’s middle school in the village of Kolaboui where she teaches Physics and biology. She and the other volunteers visited 12 classrooms to talk to 735 students about malaria and performing a malaria skit. Later, working with 16 student translators, the PCVs split up into groups to give educational talks in 81 households, sensitizing 72 men and 262 women. In the process, they helped to hang up 25 previously unhung mosquito nets. The extravaganza culminated in a soccer match of PCVs vs. students, which the PCVs won narrowly 2-1 in penalty shots. At halftime, the audience of 500 community members watched a malaria skit performed by Guineans and listened to a guest speaker from the health center talk about the importance of malaria

Community Econcomic Development Volunteer Chelsea Erola led a 100 kilometer bike tour with two other Peace Corps Volunteers in the first week of April.  Starting from Chelsea’s site of Koba, they visted 10 villages over the course of 4 days. Chelsea worked with the director of her local health center to contact health posts in the surrounding area to set up the bike tour. At each of the villages the volunteers visited, they worked with a translator from the local health post to give a malaria sensitization, using a home-made banner as a visual aid. Their talks included demonstrations of how to hang mosquito nets, as well as how to wash nets when they become dirty. Over the four days of the bike tour the volunteers educated over 800 Guineans on malaria prevention.

Education Volunteer Tess Palmer has challenged herself to hang 300 nets in her community over the course of 30 days, starting in mid-April. The inspiration for this activity came from her first home visits when she realized that many community members had mosquito nets but had not hung them over their sleeping spaces. Tess decided to encourage people to take pride in using their nets by photographing them next to their hung nets. Her project has been so successful that she is running out of nets to hang – so many people in Banko want their photo taken with their nets that they are hanging them up themselves and calling her over to take a picture. So far Tess has hung 46 nets, taken 139 photos and has 21 days remaining.

These short summaries are far from capturing the full impact of these events on the communities they touched. In Guinea, malaria is the single leading cost of consultations in public health facilities, hospitalizations, and death. According to WHO estimates, each year approximately 14,000 Guineans die from a malaria infection or complications from the disease. This makes the decision of whether or not to sleep under a mosquito net a life-saving one, and Peace Corps Volunteers here are doing tremendous work to explain to Guineans that this is the best way that they can protect their families.

Guinea is one of 23 Peace Corps posts that is part of the Stomping Out Malaria in Africa initiative. Follow our work on Facebook by giving a "Like" to our page (https://www.facebook.com/StompOutMalaria), by following our initiative Twitter account (https://twitter.com/StompOutMalaria) and by following our Guinea Twitter account (https://twitter.com/StompM_Guinea).

Stay tuned for even more updates … this is only a peek at the inspiring activities done this month!

Keep Stomping.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

New Malaria Video

Happy World Malaria Day! Malaria itself is nothing to be happy about, but the tremendous effort that is being put into eradicating the disease certainly is worth appreciating. With each new project, Peace Corps' Stomping Out Malaria in Africa initiative is growing stronger. When we started malaria work in Guinea, virtually none of our current partners knew that Peace Corps even had a malaria program. Now, everyone involved in malaria prevention in the country knows what we bring to the table, and we are actively supporting the nationwide mosquito net distribution campaign. I'll write be writing a blog post with more details about this and our exciting Malaria Month competition, but I wanted to share with you the latest promotional video for our initiative, which happens to feature yours truly. The footage was shot at a malaria training I attended in Senegal last June, but I don't think I've changed much since then. Enjoy!