Weekly Awesome Senegal: Testing and Treating Rural Populations

By: PCV Ian Hennessee

This year Peace Corps Senegal’s proverbial malaria stomp has gotten a little extra ‘oomph’ with a promising new program of early testing and treatment called PECADOM Plus. The project was founded by Health Volunteer Ian Hennessee and his counterpart Cheikh Tandian and local doctor Ismaila Diop. The aim of the project is early detection of malaria of every community member in order to promptly treat malaria cases and diminish the number of malaria vectors. The approach is to train health workers and local village groups on active surveillance, testing, and treatment of malaria. Project expenses were supported by USAID Small Project Assistance funding. The majority of funds requested were used to pay a modest wage for the hours above and beyond expectations of a community health worker.

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The Small Project Assistance Program (SPA) is a joint collaboration between USAID and the Peace Corps to support local community development. The Peace Corps and USAID support community-level development projects in sectors ranging from health to agriculture to small enterprise development.

Through an InterAgency Agreement between USAID and the Peace Corps, SPA allows Peace Corps volunteers to participate with USAID in development efforts, helping communities to implement small, self-help activities such as improving access to clean, potable water while gaining critical training in building latrines, maintaining water systems and reducing the spread of water-borne diseases.

SPA-sponsored projects focus on developing local community groups, including local associations, local government entities, schools, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Volunteers also work with NGOs to improve services to surrounding communities. Participants learn key development skills, including program design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, integrated planning and service delivery.

Local Sustainability Division manages USAID Mission access to SPA and encourages USAID Missions and Offices to participate in the program. Peace Corps Volunteers compete for funds allocated by USAID through a proposal process managed by the local Peace Corps field offices. Volunteers interested in submitting an application should contact the local Peace Corps staff regarding funding availability and application procedures. Generally, any country in which Peace Corps operates that is served by a USAID bilateral or regional Mission is eligible to initiate and participate in the SPA program

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Cheikh Tandian treating a man who was too sick to leave his hut.

Each week, the health workers conduct village-wide sweeps, going from house to house to test, treat, or refer every potential case of malaria. Midway through the project, conclusive results are still not in. However, preliminary data show a greatly decreased incidence of malaria in targeted villages and a significant drop in cases of severe malaria seen at the health post. Fingers crossed and a great many of Inshallahs!

Ian initially designed this program to complement existing malaria interventions in this remote area of Kedougou. Though universal coverage and free medicines are available to the population, geographic, educational and financial barriers still prevent access to care. Malaria rates thus skyrocket each rainy season and only a tiny fraction of cases are ever seen at the health post.

An existing program of the Senegalese Health Ministry called PECADOM provides an incredible solution to many of these barriers. Health workers are trained to test and treat simple malaria in the most remote villages, a backpack and a small supply of medicines the only health infrastructure they need. Though this program removes geographic barriers by bringing the health worker to the village, innumerable cases of malaria remain untreated at home. Clearly there is a need to go even further, to bring the health worker to each and every household.

PCV Ian Hennessee at with a village care group after their first malaria training.

The “Plus” part of Ian’s PECADOM Plus project meets this need. It uses the PECADOM model to train health workers on home-based management of malaria, but trains them to go from compound to compound in order to treat the maximum number of malaria cases as early as possible. The work of the health workers is also facilitated by volunteer care group members who provide active surveillance in each of their compounds. This cooperation ensures that literally every member of the village is monitored for malaria and all symptomatic people receive testing and treatment.

This rainy season health workers are coming to the every individual in Ian’s health zone in Kedougou, no matter their educational level, financial status, distance from a health structure or ability to seek treatment. And, thanks to their proactive, comprehensive work, innumerable cases of severe malaria and future incidence have been and will be prevented.

View this video to learn more about the Genesis of PECDOM Plus, the results of the first pilot project, and steps for moving forward.

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  1. [...] being run by the National Malaria Control Program, and adapted it to rural reality. Julie and I paid a visit to Ian’s village and took a look at what he was doing first hand. Since then we have been looking for ways to scale [...]

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