Weekly Awesome Mozambique: Malaria Awareness at Sports Camp in Mocuba

Regan Simpson, Health Volunteer, in Mocuba, Zambezia, organized a week-long health summer camp for 55 kids between 8 and 14 years of age with her organization, Osivela Wa Yesu. Three other Volunteers arrived in Mocuba for the week to help Regan with the camp. The camp focused on health topics including: malaria, HIV, hygiene and nutrition.  IMG_20141119_122324

Each day the kids went through the following stations: art, library, games, and sports. Everyday after lunch, there was a health lesson.

Wednesday was “Malaria Day!” To reinforce the message each station was malaria themed. During the library station, everyone read the book “Tatu luta contra malaria”, the story of a young girl who gets malaria and then goes to the hospital to get treated. They went through the quiz at the back of the story after reading it. After lunch, the kids had a mini-presentation on malaria where they learned about malaria transmission, symptoms, prevention and treatment. They surveyed all the kids to ask about using their mosquito nets. While the majority of kids said they use nets, a large portion said that they do not have nets at their homes.  To finish the day, the volunteers used the Grassroot Soccer activity Bed Net Ball to actively demonstrate how mosquito nets work!

Regan was happy with the camp,  “the kids were active, interested and engaged in the camp all week!”

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Weekly Awesome Mozambique: Peace Corps Mozambique and Vodacom Partnership to Prevent Malaria

Most malaria prevention behavior change activities that Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV) do in Mozambique include common messages: use your mosquito net every night, sleep under your mosquito net all year and take care of your net. These messages have served as reminders but now will serve as instructions to community members as they receive treated nets provided by Vodacom through the Peace Corps Mozambique and Vodacom partnership.

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At a press release on November 6, Country Director Sanjay Mathur on behalf of Peace Corps Mozambique and Vodacom’s Chairman of the Board of Directors Salimo Abdula signed a memorandum of understanding to work together to prevent malaria.

Vodacom has started working with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, TVM, Grupo Soico, Radio Mozambique and Peace Corps to do net distributions throughout the country as a part of their commitment to social responsibility. Through the Peace Corps/Vodacom agreement, Vodacom will provide long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets approved by the Ministry of Health to communities where Peace Corps Volunteers are doing behavior change communication projects.

Prior to the press conference, Peace Corps Mozambique sat down with representatives from Vodacom and Dr. Baltazar Candrinho, Director of the National Malaria Control Program in order to outline the new partnership. The net distributions through Vodacom will not replace the distributions planned through the Ministry of Health, but rather reach populations and communities that may not have received nets in previous distributions. In addition, volunteers will be able to distribute nets to boarding schools, orphanages and hospitals in their communities.

Peace Corps Volunteers will  administer baseline surveys in their communities and submit a proposal outlining the project to receive nets to distribute in their communities. Peace Corps Volunteers are starting to plan behavior change projects in their communities like PCV Lauren Hoisl in Chissano, Gaza who has collected 50 baseline surveys in her community working with JUNTOS. local youth group, once she receives the nets she and members of JUNTOS will go to each home who completed the baseline survey to hang nets. Volunteers in Mozambique are looking forward to executing similar projects.

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Mozambique Weekly Awesome: Malaria Education for Teacher Trainers in Pemba

With the end of the school year quickly approaching and the intrinsic motivation of the students rapidly declining, it was clear something needed to be done to recharge Kristina Kennedy’s English classes at the Teacher Training Institute in Pemba, Mozambique. Kristina created an in class competition to take the pain out of learning English grammar. During classes Kristina used malaria-based activities to teach some of the tougher lessons in English. Vocabulary words became part of a game, phrases and sentence structure became a relay race, translating a book became an interactive project, and the whole week wrapped up with an unorthodox review session.

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On day one, students decoded sentences in groups, competing against each other to put single words in order according to grammar rules to reveal a larger paragraph that taught the symptoms of malaria. Day two they had a discussion of the steps to take if you think you have malaria and the grammar topic of giving advice. On day three they did an interactive activity translating “Tatu Luta Contra a Malária” (Tatu Fights Against Malaria) and read aloud.

On day four, the grand finale, students were put into teams and were given a variety of tasks and each completed task earned the team points. They took what they learned throughout the week and put it into context. Students posed under their mosquito nets and took pictures of themselves covering buckets of water, two simple ways they can reduce their exposure to mosquitoes and malaria. Some teams wrote and performed skits about what to do when the symptoms of malaria manifest. Other teams took the artistic approach even further and wrote songs or designed posters to spread the awareness to their colleagues.

In all, 27 students modeled correct mosquito net usage or bucket covering, 19 people were surveyed (In English) about their mosquito net usage, 14 teams wrote and performed a song or skit, six teams made Malaria Awareness posters, three students used their precious internet time to “like” the Stomp Out Malaria page on Facebook, and one team did a mock radio interview that landed them in the winners circle.

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This seemingly small stylistic adaptation provided Kristina’s students with information that not only encouraged personal health and wellness, it also provided each future educator with several strategic teaching tools that they will use to impact the lives of student all over Mozambique.

“My students are going to be teachers themselves. In just two years they are going to be placed all over the country to teach young children and I’m hoping that they take what I’m teaching them to heart and teach that to their own students one day.” -Kristina

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Uganda Bites Back! Malaria Education Through VHT Training

Written by Kristina Sandfoss

PCV Kendra Smith is based in a rural village in Kiruhura District in Southwestern Uganda. Uganda Bites Back, a project Kendra created, coordinates two-day malaria workshops for Village Health Teams (VHT) comprised of local volunteers that assist with distributing health education, skills and assessments to community members.

The goals of the project are to train the VHT Coordinators on malaria education and prevention, specifically mosquito net repair, care and maintenance, to increase community knowledge of malaria, malaria prevention and to encourage behavior change around proper bed net use.

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Kendra is passionate about the fight against malaria and this passion is what pushed her to create Uganda Bites Back . Earlier this year, Kendra conducted a baseline survey to better understand what community members knew about bed net usage; the results confirmed the need for bed nets in the homes and education on their proper use.  Kendra says “I know behavior change is one of the hardest parts of a society to effect, but a difference cannot be made if nothing is ever tried”.

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Kendra’s efforts are supported with a grant from the Pollination Project. The grant will fund supplies for each training and materials for net repair. The Pollination Project is a US based vegan organization that makes $1000 seed grants to individuals committed to making change happen every day of the year. The organization has supported 18 projects in Uganda that range from students becoming conservation advocates and community leaders to gender based violence workshops training community activists to malaria and other health education activities
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Follow along with Kendra’s project on her blog http://ksmithpcv.blogspot.com/
For more information on The Pollination Project visit http://thepollinationproject.org/

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Gambia Weekly Awesome: Introducing Mpahoreh Sillah

IMG_1916Mpahoreh Sillah, born 12 April 1986 in Sabi, a rural Sarahule village in the Upper River Region of The Gambia in West Africa has been instrumental in the fight against malaria thanks in part to the Stomp Out Malaria initiative. As a trained nurse, employed with MRC, he is passionate about two things: health education and football or soccer as we know it.

He became interested in health at an early age. A product of the Education system founded in Sabi under Future in Our Hands he was a leader in a very active Peer Health Club and mentored by teachers who encouraged him to follow his dreams. Working in health programs for the MRC he completed a two year nurse training program in 2013. When PCV Elizabeth Livingston was assigned to Sabi the stars aligned and two people who share a love of two things were introduced. As a PCV there is nothing more powerful than having community leadership at the center of any initiative and as Mpahoreh will attest, if you do what you love it isn’t work it’s destiny.

Mpahoreh is looking for opportunities to continue his education in health but always with the goal of returning to his home community, to be a part of giving back: “I want to be a part of the development and growth in Sabi.”

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Gambia Weekly Awesome: A Volunteer’s Narrative of Football Tournament Meets Health Fair

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It’s 8 am the Friday morning of Sabi’s Stomp out Malaria Soccer tournament, and all participants are actively waiting for the weekend to begin. They are assembled, quiet, feet tapping against their metal desks, adorned in both soccer cleats and bitik flip flops. There is an anticipation in the air, and the Peace Corps volunteers attending are sitting in the corner and watching Gambian counterparts begin the day. The counterparts start by quieting the boys, explaining what is to happen over the next 3 days and we all just sit in the background and watch.

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The concept of the weekend began with a clear identification of a West African passion: Soccer, and a West African health issue: Malaria. My wonderful friend Elizabeth, an avid soccer fan, and advocate for Malaria thought of an ingenious way to combine the two: use an existing soccer tournament as a platform for teaching about one of the most prominent health issues in this part of the world. She found an incredible counterpart named MPa, someone we all would be so lucky to work with throughout our service. He assembled a team of Gambians to lead the weekend, and Elizabeth did what is perhaps the most difficult but most effective thing we could do as volunteers: stand in the background and allow magic to happen so that our host country national counterparts can take the spotlight.

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I have never seen Gambians take such initiative, teach so effectively or be so passionate about something. As with all things here, things were late, and imperfect but with the imperfection came this understanding that the people running the program had never been given the trust or opportunity to educate like this before.

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Friday and Saturday were devoted to allowing the counterpart team teach the kids about Malaria, have the kids do a pre-test and use the Grassroots Soccer curriculum as a way and method to make the learning fun. The afternoons were devoted to the soccer tournament. On Sunday, Elizabeth and fellow PCV Jess, created a Malaria health fair which had the kids rotate rooms to learn about all aspects of Malaria: prevention, proper bed net use and malaria transmission. It was genius.

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There was a small army of Peace Corps volunteers there to help, but the beauty was that we barely needed to do anything. As the people who were translating our lessons for us took over and began to teach themselves, we were able to relax and just make sure things ran smoothly. I mentioned a quote in my last blog, or a mindset that I think we all should have as Peace Corps volunteers: “Go with the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say ‘we have done this ourselves.’”

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This was the beauty of the program. It will have an impact, I am sure. But it is nothing compared to the empowerment effect. When Elizabeth returned to village after the weekend, the boys on the soccer teams were still partying, the women still chattering, and I bet this will continue. Not because it was a Peace Corps program, but because it was theirs.

To Empower” was originally published on Musings from Under a Mango Tree
Photo credit: Beth Eanelli, PCV

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Gambia Weekly Awesome: Football Tournament Meets Health Fair

The boys of Sabi village in the Upper River Region sat in anticipation to start a three day program to stomp out malaria, organized by PCV Elizabeth Livingston. The idea to combine Grassroots Soccer, a football tournament and a malaria health fair all became a reality a few weeks ago. Elizabeth found Mpahoreh Sillah, a counterpart that any volunteer would be lucky to have in their service. He took the initiative, selected and trained coaches from the Sabi Football Association. Elizabeth and her counterpart made the decision to teach everything in Serehule, the language spoken in Sabi, and include all boys in the community, not just those who attend school. This made the program even more special because it is a rare opportunity for out-of-school kids to get to participate in an educational program like this.

Friday and Saturday mornings were dedicated to learning the four lessons from the Grassroots program, two each day. Taught by Elizabeth’s wonderful counterpart and the coaches that he trained, the students learned about proper bet net use and care, prevention and treatment, and facts and myths about malaria. In the afternoons, the 8 teams played the first rounds of the football tournament.

The final day of the program brought the semi final and final games of the tournament. Full of excitement the boys went back to school for the malaria health fair. They rotated through 4 stations being taught by PCVs and Gambian counterparts to reinforce the lessons taught the previous two days. The idea is that this health fair will be expanded to many schools throughout the Upper River Region, in the near future.

It was a beautiful thing to watch. About 15 PCVs came to help out for the weekend to find that there wasn’t really that much work to do because the Gambian counterparts had taken charge of everything. It was the epitome of Peace Corps picture perfect program.

Written by: Rachel Popik, Education Volunteer, Malaria Task Force Member

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63rd ASTMH: Accelerating to Zero

What impresses me the most about walking the halls of the ASTMH is the breadth of the research on display. From the most minute details of the parasite’s surface proteins to the challenge of getting drugs to millions of people in mass screen and treat (MSAT) campaigns, malaria is being looked at from every angle.

If there was a single thread that ran through the sessions I attended today it was that malaria is not a homogeneous problem. It differs country to country, region to region, town to town and now research is revealing that in many places malaria rates are clustered even within the same town. Intuitive this should be obvious – mosquitoes need a water source to breed and it stands to reason that malaria rates would be highest near that water source – and yet a population based bio-medical approach treats everyone’s risk as being equal. It’s not.

Fascinating work is being done in Zambia to map the occurrence of malaria at the household level and identify determinants of risk. In Namibia and Kenya mobile phones are being used to map mobile populations in real time to identify risks of malaria importation from one region to another. And Dr. Adam Bennett, who has presented at our Boot Camps introduced the concept of “hotpops” or hot populations – groups that are occupationally or behaviorally at higher risk for malaria, i.e. artisanal gold miners.

One way to address these populations may be to take a page out of the HIV book. Over the last 30 years ministries of health have been forced by the HIV/AIDS epidemic to break out of their clinical comfort zone and embrace innovative peer outreach models to reach high risk populations. Similar approaches may help malariologists identify and intervene with high risk (often underserved) populations as we try to push to zero.

And pushing to zero is on everyone’s mind. From mass drug administration to MSAT to vaccines and transgenic mosquitos the research community is filling its toolbox for the final push. I ended the day at a reception hosted by Malaria No More and the University of California San Fransisco’s Malaria Elimination Initiative. Looking around the room as the various speakers exhorted us to redouble our efforts I saw young brilliant researchers from around the world, public health professionals dealing with the disease day in and day out and a cadre of people who have been in public health long enough to be jaded. And it’s the hopefulness I saw in that last group that lifted my spirits.

PMI’s Bernard Nahlen brought it home to me when he talked about the sea change he’s seen in the tools available. When Bill Gates announced a commitment to elimination on the part of the Gate Foundation in 2007, it was roundly understood as an aspirational but unrealistic goal. No one thinks that any more – it’s an inevitability. The only question is how quickly can we do it – and every bit of speed we can muster is another child that doesn’t have to die.

As Nahlen pointed out, the city of New Orleans was itself quite malarious. With concerted public health effort that era is behind us. We can walk down Bourbon street without worrying about the mosquitos. We can enjoy New Orleans jazz from a balcony restaurant steeped in the tradition of the south. And we’re on the path to that day when Africa will be similar – one will be able to sit at a sidewalk cafe in Dakar or Accra or Lilongwe, listen to their distinctive musical heritages and give no thought to malaria at all. Zero.

written by Matt McLaughlin, Program Manager
Stomping out Malaria in Africa

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Day One of the 63rd ASTMH

Program Manager for Stomping out Malaria in Africa Matt McLaughlin with  RPCVs Anne Linn and  Karin Nordstrom along with Senegalese Regional Chief of Medicine Dr. Youssoupha Ndiaye in front of their PECADOM+ Research Poster

Program Manager for Stomping out Malaria in Africa Matt McLaughlin with RPCVs Anne Linn and Karin Nordstrom and Senegalese Regional Chief of Medicine Dr. Youssoupha Ndiaye presenting their PECADOM+ Research Poster

Bill Gates’ words from last night’s keynote hung in the air as the first full day of sessions began. Malaria elimination is achievable. That theme was hammered home in the morning session presenting the second Global Malaria Action Plan (GMAP2). The targets of GMAP2 are substantial, a 40%, 75% and 90% reduction in 2020, 2025 and 2030 respectively in both malaria mortality and morbidity. All of these measured against a 2040 baseline. To achieve these results we’ll need a roughly 70% increase in resources, but it as the head of the WHO Global Malaria Group noted, “We think these are realistic, not aspirational targets.”

Across the backdrop of high level malaria planning Peace Corps had something to offer. RPCVs Anne Linn and Karin Nordstrom along with Senegalese Regional Chief of Medicine Dr. Youssoupha Ndiaye presented their research on PECADOM+. Researchers from around the world stopped by their poster presentation to learn about the proactive community treatment model.

Now is a great time to be a Peace Corps Volunteer. The power of the Internet is creating linkages that allow great projects like PECADOM+ to spread rapidly. As I walked through the exhibition halls, my phone buzzed in my pocket with an email from Togo where they’re doing their first PECADOM+ pilot. Even in an area of substantially higher prevalence than where it was first piloted in Sengal they’re seeing strong preliminary results.

In the coming days I’ll be evangelizing PECADOM+ with anyone who will listen. I’ll also be on the lookout for the next great Peace Corps pilot project. I already have an inkling of what that might be… In the GMAP2 presentation hidden amongst a slew of slides on the biomedical and chemical approaches was a slide on environmental modification – clearing clogged drainage ditches, screening houses etc. Household screening is simple, easy and may have a substantial impact. I’m looking forward to exploring this with Volunteers.

written by Matt McLaughlin, Program Manager
Stomping out Malaria in Africa

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Botswana Weekly Awesome: Bringing Sexy Back to Malaria Prevention

It can be extremely challenging to implement and mobilize community members to take action against malaria in Botswana, particularly when HIV/AIDS epidemic is a much bigger battle. Only 50% of the population technically resides within malaria-endemic areas and  less than 100 malaria-related deaths are reported annually. Botswana’s overwhelming successes in malaria control in the past decade also propagate the notion that malaria is a “thing of the past”, further attributing to the disinterests in on-going malaria interventions. Despite recent malaria outbreaks across the country, including in non-endemic areas, the immediate threat of resurgence correlating to decrease in community uptake of malaria prevention strategies and the relevance of HIV-malaria co-infection, malaria remains unperceived by the general public as a threat.

Sadly, this perception of malaria is not only held by community members, but also shared by some Peace Corps Volunteers. The community’s attitude towards malaria can also quickly erode away any PCV’s initial enthusiasm for the topic. It’s a reality that raises a very serious question for the Botswana Stomp Team: If we can’t get our own volunteers to care about malaria, how can we expect to lead our community members by example?

If we wanted PCVs to become as informed and as passionate about malaria as we are, then something had to be done to reduce the  gap between our malaria training and theirs. While Stomp Coordinator Volunteers were educated and empowered with all the necessary information and tools to become experts in the area of malaria, as well as to become equally passionate about eradicating malaria from Africa in our lifetime, at an intensive boot camp… our volunteers were asked to copy resources off of a USB key to learn about malaria in their own spare time. Information was unregulated and overloaded: files upon files of resources accumulated overtime, passed down from generations of Botswana Stomp Coordinators, all arranged in no particular order and without any commentary on their significance.

Our solution was to overhaul the USB system and to come up with a brand new malaria toolkit that was comprehensive, up-to-date, and sexy. The toolkit comprises of (i) a handbook, a complete guide to malaria based on everything that we know and all the resources that we have, and (ii) necessary items required in successful bed net demonstrations, such as needles and threads, all neatly packaged in recycled Peace Corps Medical kits. While this is no substitute for a boot camp, we still sincerely hope that it will allow PCVs to be better informed and more confident on the subject of malaria, as well as to increase the likelihood of malaria-related activities to be immediately implemented at PCVs’ sites.

PC Botswana Malaria Tool Kit: We know you want one!

PC Botswana Malaria Tool Kit: We know you want one!

We are piloting our toolkits on our newest intake group, Bots 15, having just recently distributed the kits at PST earlier in October. An electronic copy of the handbook can be accessed here via dropbox.

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