Two Kolda Volunteers are prepared for the malaria season

By Diana Belanger
July 18, 2017

The first months of Diana’s service as a Health Volunteer were at the start of malaria season in southern Senegal. 

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Volunteers Diana and Christina teaching other teachers on malaria related issues. Photo by Volunteer Diana

She was surprised to find out that many members of her community were waiting until the onset of severe malaria to seek care at the local hospital. It was not uncommon for Diana to arrive a­­t the hospital in the morning to find men, women, and children laying on the ground with IV’s hanging from tree branches, a tell-tale sign that the hospital had run out of beds to accommodate patients. She and her counterparts at the hospital decided that something must be done about the community’s malaria prevention practices.

The chief complaint echoed from community members was that, “They did not have enough money to seek treatment at the hospital.” People waited in their homes when they were sick in hopes of getting better without treatment. In such cases, the symptoms of malaria become crippling and increasingly lethal. Further investigation found there was an issue with communication over the health post’s policies. Many did not know that the exam to screen for malaria and medicine for simple malaria were completely free at the hospital. By waiting longer than 24 hours to seek treatment after the initial symptoms, not only were community members risking their lives, they were additionally spending on IV’s and various medicines to treat their now late-stage malaria symptoms!

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The newly trained trainers pose for a group photo. Photo by Diana

Shocked by the gravity of the findings from malaria season 2016, the Mutuel de Santé, the hospital, and Diana agreed that they had to prepare the community for July-November 2017.

From July-November 2016, Edi Mballo, the hospital pharmacist, kept rigorous records detailing how much the community was spending at the hospital on treatment needed for severe malaria. At the end of peak malaria season and armed with the jarring statistics from the hospital, Diana, her counterpart, Ibrahima Sane, and Edi showed members of the Mutuel de Santé, the hospital’s bank, what they had found. Shocked by the gravity of the findings from malaria season 2016, the Mutuel de Santé, the hospital, and Diana agreed that they had to prepare the community for July-November 2017. 

Diana Belanger Bio Headshot
Volunteer Diana posing after the training. Photo by Volunteer Christina

Diana called upon Community Economic Development Volunteer Christina to collaborate on this effort. In April, Diana, Christina, Ibrahima, Edi, and the Mutuel de Santé conducted a training of trainers for 36 community members – three representatives from each neighborhood. The health session reviewed the difference in symptoms between simple and severe malaria, what is defined as early care-seeking, and why it’s important for one’s health and finances to seek care within 24 hours of the onset of malaria symptoms. The financial session addressed costs of health care without insurance, what is Senegal’s National Health Insurance Program and how to enroll, and financial planning.

Within the next two months, the 36 community representatives held their own trainings for their respective neighborhoods relaying the information they learned in the training. Malaria season started early this year, and Diana and Christina hope to see community members exhibit increased early care-seeking practices, improved financial planning for health expenses and increased enrollment in the National Health Insurance Program. Watch this space for an update!

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Photo by Volunteer Diana
Christina Biedny Bio Headshot