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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Fighting Malaria One Net at a Time

Region
Africa, Senegal

Peace Corps Volunteer April Williamson describes an initiative to collect and distribute more than 2,000 bed nets across north-central Senegal to prevent the spread of malaria.

English

8 days

7 Peace Corps Volunteers

56 Senegalese health workers

2000 bed nets

Thousands of people protected against malaria.

My name is April Williamson. I'm an environmental education volunteer and Peace Corps Volunteer leader in Linguère, which is located in north-central Senegal.

Senegal is a small coastal country located on the southern edge of the Sahara desert in West Africa. It has a vibrant culture that emphasizes community and hospitality.

I recently collaborated with six other Peace Corps Volunteers in the Linguère area to coordinate the distribution of over two thousand bed nets.

Long-lasting, insecticidal bed nets, which protect people from mosquito bites while they sleep, are an important tool in helping to prevent the spread of malaria, a disease carried by certain kinds of mosquitoes that bite at night. Malaria is very dangerous, especially among vulnerable populations like children and pregnant women. Because malaria kills many people each year, but is easily preventable, the volunteers who live in and around Linguère felt it was important to coordinate a large-scale bed net distribution and education campaign, targeting rural populations who don't have easy access to nets or health care.

First, we figured out how many nets we wanted to distribute and created a donations page on the Against Malaria website to raise money for the nets. Against Malaria provided the high-quality, long-lasting, insecticidal nets at a discounted price of only two dollars a net. We worked together to raise over four thousand dollars through the generous donations of friends and family back in the U.S.

Then, we enacted a pre-distribution education campaign. We went around to schools and markets in the area doing malaria talks. We discussed what malaria is, what causes it, and strategies to prevent it, including the use of insecticidal bed nets. We also demonstrated the proper way to hang a net.

We worked with eight health posts to distribute all of the nets, in correlation with national polio vaccine tours. We accompanied health workers out into the farthest reaches of the bush in order to connect with populations that hadn't received bed nets in previous national and NGO-led distributions. It was important to distribute to these people, not only because most of them hadn't received nets in the past, but because, if they do get malaria, they are far from health providers and often lack the means of transportation.

We distributed the bed nets to children under five and pregnant women, the two groups most seriously affected by malaria. We spent long days working in the sun and often got stranded in the bush overnight among people who had never before seen a foreigner, but the hard work was worth it. It felt good to do something concrete to help save lives.