Weekly Awesome Senegal: An Innovative Representation of the Economic Malaria Burden

By: PCV Ben Gascoigne

Kédougou is one of the regions of Senegal most heavily burdened by malaria. PCV Ben Gascoigne lives in a village of about 950 people 35 kilometers outside the regional capital into the mountains. Ben and his counterpart, Mamba Camara, decided to speak with members of their community about the amount of money they spent on treating malaria last year – a whopping 3,039,100 CFA or 6,078 USD. They hoped to raise awareness of the economic burden of malaria and motivate people to focus on prevention. Community members were impressed by the enormous figure but it was sometimes difficult to conceptualize the real value of such a large number.

To visually represent this figure, shortly after World Malaria Day, 196 sacks—3,039,100 CFA worth of rice—boldly lined the road between the community market and health post. Trained local youth, the community’s health worker, and local Peace Corps Volunteers demonstrated proper net maintenance, led discussions on the economic impact of malaria (e.g., money spent on malaria medication and consultations that could have been spent on food), and demonstrated how to change square nets to round nets for easy hanging. Participants learned that they could greatly reduce the cost of malaria to their families by sleeping under mosquito nets, seeking early treatment for malarial symptoms, and, for pregnant women, by attending antenatal care visits.

The Results:

  • Over 70 community members were exposed to the net maintenance stations and many more were exposed to the rice sack visual display and malaria prevention messages broadcasted through speakers at the health post.
  • 50 people were trained on how to sew torn nets and twenty-one nets with one hundred and thirty-five holes were repaired.
  • 30 people were trained in net-washing and twenty-four nets were washed.
  • 12 women were trained on how to transform a square net into a round net

Scaling Up

The success of the malaria Rice Sack Project in Gascoigne’s village in April inspired him and PCVs Ian Hennessee and Alex Piotrowski to scale-up the event to the regional capital of Kédougou. The event attempted to engage a larger number of PCVs in the region, raise awareness in the community about the economic burden of malaria and motivate people to focus on prevention. In 2010, Kédougou community members spent an impressive 4,466,000 CFA (approximately 9,000 USD) on malaria-related medication and consultations.

Children learn how to properly wash a bed net at the Kedougou Malaria Fair in Senegal.

On June 30, 2012, weeks before the incidence of malaria has been observed to spike at health structures during the rainy season, 308 rice sacks—4,466,000CFA worth of rice—lined a main road in Kédougou between the Kédougou Health Center and the “A Nos Morts” monument/public garden in the center of the city. PCVs managed stations that demonstrated proper net maintenance, lead discussions on the economic impact of malaria (e.g., money spent on malaria medication and consultations that could have been spent on food), and modeled how to change square nets to round nets for easier hanging. PCVs also taught participants to how make a natural insect repellent using Neem leaves (Neem lotion) and how to beautify mosquito nets with stencils of the leaders of the Senegalese Muslim Brotherhoods. Finally, a local theatre group, Gorgoru, performed skits that educated participants about the NetWorks-supported national routine mosquito net distribution at local health structures.

Twenty-six volunteers from all sectors joined together to ensure the success of the Kédougou Rice Sack Project. PCV Ashleigh Baker led the net sewing station, PCVs C.J. Cintas and Kyle Deboy led the net washing station, Piotrowski and PCV Marielle Goyette led the Neem lotion station, Hennessee and PCV LaRocha LaRiviere led the net modification and stenciling stations, and PCV TatHennesseea Nieuwenhuys was in charge of counting every person who attended at least one station.

The Results:

  • Over 230 community members were exposed to the malaria stations and many more were exposed to the rice sack visual display.
  • 19 people brought nets, 77 people were trained on how to sew torn nets, and 43 nets with 364 holes were repaired.
  • 57 people were trained in proper net- washing and 31 nets were washed.120 were trained to make Neem lotion.
  • 81 people were trained in net modification.
  • 66 people were exposed to the net-stenciling 11 participants received a stencil on at least one net, and another 55 people observed the net beautification/stenciling process.
  • Additionally, 124 people, some from the stations and some passersby, watched the theater performance about malaria, net maintenance, and how to obtain a net through the NetWorks-supported national mosquito net distribution at local health structures.

Participants and observers learned that they could greatly reduce the cost of malaria to their families by sleeping under mosquito nets, seeking early treatment for malarial symptoms, and, for pregnant women, by attending antenatal care visits.

PCV Ian Hennessee demonstrates how to transform a square bed net into a circular bed net at the Kedougou Malaria Fair in Senegal.

After a month and a half of preparation as the project approached, Hennessee, Piotrowski, and Gascoigne worked sunrise through sunset. The PCVs backs were sun burnt and arms were scratched all-over from stuffing rice sacks with dead grass. They made new friends through the theater group and realized the potential of volunteer collaboration. Gascoigne says he is excited to see the malaria work in PC Senegal and other countries across Africa grow and evolve through volunteer projects and the Stomping Out Malaria in Africa initiative. He is proud to be part of such a talented and motivated group of individuals.

The project created a lot of buzz in the city. The radio spots and rice sack visual sparked conversation about the economic burden of malaria. The data collected from the event is being reviewed and will be published along with a formal case study on PCSenegal.org and Stompoutmalaria.org.

Watch the video of Ben’s Rice Sack Project in his village below.

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