Peace Corps Salutes Health Volunteers on World Health Day
April 6, 2000Washington, D.C., April 6, 2000—In honor of World Health Day on Friday, April 7, Peace Corps Director Mark Schneider salutes the thousands of current and returned Peace Corps volunteers who have worked to improve the quality of health of people in developing nations around the world. April 7 is designated as World Health Day each year to raise awareness of a specific global health concern.
The Peace Corps also will mark World Health Day by participating in a washingtonpost.com online discussion. On Friday at noon Eastern Standard Time, Peace Corps Malawi Country Director Terry Murphree will talk about the agency's HIV/AIDS work around the world.
"Among the distinguished legacies of the Peace Corps is a significant contribution to the health care of people in need," said Schneider. "Through health education programs, the training of health care professionals, and many other initiatives, our volunteers have a profound impact on people's lives at the most fundamental level, reaching nearly 470,000 men, women, and children last year alone." Nearly 20 percent of Peace Corps volunteers focus on health-related projects. Currently, the Peace Corps sponsors 48 health projects in 36 countries, including programs on nutrition, maternal and child health, reproductive health, communicable diseases, and water and sanitation. Of special concern for Schneider is the devastation AIDS is inflicting across the African continent, which has 10 percent of the world's population and 70 percent of the world's HIV/AIDS cases. "While almost all of our health programs incorporate HIV/AIDS prevention, those efforts will soon expand to every Peace Corps program in Africa," said Schneider. "We simply have to find additional ways to assist the countries where we serve in reducing the spread of AIDS." Peace Corps volunteers are constantly innovating culturally relevant methods for educating communities and training health service providers. In Mali, Benin, and Kirabati, volunteers deliver health information through radio broadcasts. In Malawi, one volunteer revised a cookbook with nutritional information for more than 100 local recipes. And in Dominica, volunteers' sessions on sanitation and waste disposal for a drama club were transformed into theatrical educational presentations for the community. Three decades ago, Peace Corps volunteers played a crucial role in the successful effort to eradicate smallpox. Recently, they have participated in the international campaign to eradicate Guinea worm. And in a new initiative, volunteers will expand their participation in the global campaign to eradicate polio. Today nearly 7,000 Peace Corps volunteers serve in 77 countries around the world, working to fight hunger, prevent the spread of AIDS, protect the environment, teach children, promote health and nutrition, and start small businesses. Since 1961, more than 155,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.