Peace Corps Volunteers' Work Raises Awareness about Malaria
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 23, 2009 - Peace Corps Volunteers will join thousands of people around the world to commemorate World Malaria Day on April 25. The Peace Corps will participate with other Roll Back Malaria (RBM) partners to launch "Counting Malaria Out." This is a two-year campaign aimed toward delivering effective and affordable protection and treatment to all people at risk of malaria, as called for by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
In support of the launch of the Counting Malaria Out campaign, Peace Corps staff and Volunteers are participating in key local and national activities in many countries. For example, in Benin, Volunteers and staff, as well as several hundred students, will join in the National Malaria Control Caravan on Saturday, April 25, marching to the National Stadium for the official campaign launch.
Malaria is an infectious disease caused by a parasite (plasmodium) that is transmitted from human to human by the bite of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Young children, pregnant women, and people living with HIV/AIDS are at highest risk for malaria morbidity and mortality. Ninety percent of all malaria deaths in Africa occur in young children, with those under the age of 5 being particularly vulnerable.
Peace Corps Volunteers are working to mitigate the devastating impact that malaria has on these groups in Africa and elsewhere around the world. Volunteers play a key role in carrying out grassroots community-based education and activities focused on malaria control. In Africa, health sector Volunteers work alongside their counterparts (health agents, youth groups, womens groups and others) to train local community members on the prevention of malaria.
"Malaria is a serious health problem in so many parts of the world, even though we know it is treatable and preventable," Peace Corps acting Director Dr. Jody K. Olsen said, adding, "I am proud of the work Volunteers are doing in the area of prevention of and education about malaria, with the goal of reducing and eventually eradicating the disease once and for all."
Here are a few examples of what Volunteers are doing:
- In Senegal, Volunteers, assisted by local President Malaria Initiative (PMI) partners, have organized and facilitated radio shows, theater groups and net dippings (impregnating mosquito nets with insecticide). Volunteer Ashley Goodson of La Porte, Ind., performed a radio show focusing on the importance of preventing malaria during pregnancy by stressing the importance of sleeping under an impregnated mosquito net. Volunteer Adrien Thelin of New Orleans, La., discovered that people often sleep outdoors without the protection of their mosquito nets, so he helped introduce the Legs Project, which provides portable legs to suspend mosquito nets.
- In Benin and Niger, Volunteers conducted bike tours to raise awareness about malaria prevention education and to increase demand for bed net utilization, an effective malaria prevention strategy.
- In Mali, 27 Volunteers and their counterparts carried out health education sessions in their communities, including malaria prevention and treatment methods.
- In Ecuador, eight Volunteers led workshops that focused on the symptoms and risks of malaria and measures to take in order to eradicate mosquito-breeding pools.
- In Guinea, three Volunteers organized a malaria message contest involving 300 children from three primary schools.
As the Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary, its service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world. Historically, over 195,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries in which they have served. Applications to serve in the Peace Corps have increased 16 percent this past year, the largest boost in the last five years. Currently, 7,876 Peace Corps Volunteers are serving in 76 countries. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.
# # #