Wednesday, April 18, 2012



Malaria is the 2nd leading cause of death in Africa behind HIV/AIDS.  In fact, 89% of malaria deaths are found in 35 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, including Senegal.  I have seen first hand the damage done by malaria and it's more than frustrating to know that this disease could be easily prevented.  The disease is carried by a parasite in a particular type of mosquito.  When the mosquito feeds on a human it transfers the parasite into the blood where it later travels to the liver where it reproduces itself and infects the red blood cells.

Once a person is infected they will have a  high fever and body aches. Sometimes vomiting and diarrhea will occur. If not treated right away, the disease can be fatal.  According to the CDC, 15%-20% of patients, even with treatment end up dying.

As a volunteer or health worker in this area there are a few things that we do to educate people. 1. Sleep under a net, 2. Use Neem cream to protect yourself, 3. Get treated right away. 

 Behavior change has been the foundation of my work here and it's the most challenging thing a person could take on.  Living in a village where superstitious and the belief that Allah has power over life and death limits people in their ability to take responsibility for their actions. Many times when I have encountered a sick child and asked the parents what was going on, their response is "oh, it's Malaria"  If the child or person dies it's "oh, it's the will of Allah . This attitude stems from ignorance and a lack of understanding of the disease.  Many of the deaths that occur are a result of taking too long to get treated. Many times I have seen families wait 3, 4 or even 5 days before taking their children to get medicine.  My personal goal has been, and I think many volunteers will agree, to empower people with knowledge. It IS the most important part of our work. Repetition is KEY!  It is the only way behavior change will ever happen and though it's a slow process it does take place.

When I first came to Senegal, I remember a few volunteers telling me that villagers in my area thought eating green mangos caused malaria.  I have seen the difference in belief since then. Nearly every person I ask, children included, will now tell you it's because of mosquitoes.  It's cool to see that people can learn.  The next step in this battle is to keep encouraging the use of Neem cream (a cream that can be made with local ingredients and is very effective in preventing mosquito bites) and sleeping under a net as well as getting treated right away. 

Senegal has been the leader in efficient ways to combat Malaria. In 2009 and 2010, volunteers carried out universal mosquito net distributions. The success of this program led to the creation of Stompin out Malaria. Peace Corps countries throughout Africa are now joining together to combat malaria. Volunteers meet several times a year, in Senegal, to discuss ways to overcome the challenges of Malaria and share project ideas.  To read more about this program see : Also you can follow them on Facebook at

Because World Malaria Day falls on the 25th of this month, we are trying to raise awareness and get people involved in this movement.  In my last 5 days in village, volunteer Cara Steger and I dedicated our last health club meeting to Malaria. We made neem cream with the students and gave them a starter kit that they can use to replicate it and then sell it. 

The Stompin out Malaria has been recently developed and I must say I am a little jealous I have to go home and can't stay to be a part of it. The overall goal is to eventually eradicate malaria entirely.  It has been great to have been a part of it.  I send nothing but best wishes and luck to future volunteers as they take on this mission because the truth is...EVERY child does deserve a 5th Birthday! 

No comments:

Post a Comment