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Published: April 27th 2013
Market Malaria Booth
Sitting under my bed net in my market quizzing village members about their malaria knowledge. Of course the candy was the main attraction!
This past Thursday, April 25th
, was World Malaria Day. I decided to make it a weeklong event and see just how many village members I could get to start talking about ways to prevent malaria.
Volunteers have been talking with their communities about the importance of sleeping under a bed net every night and healthy medical treatment seeking habits. For Burkina Faso, the rainy season starts in late May, with the “Mango Rains” starting in April. Now is prime time for volunteers to get their communities prepared to protect themselves against malaria. This past week, I focused on getting my students at the primary school and the secondary school to start talking with their families about malaria prevention. I did programs with over 180 fifth and sixth grade students and 60 secondary school students during the English Club.
At the primary school level, we made the discussion more interactive by starting off with “Bed Nets and Mosquitoes,” one of the best games my students have enjoyed so far. Because all the students here know and love playing soccer, we flooded the field by the school. The goals acted as our “bed nets” and a few students started in the middle acting as our “mosquitoes.” The rest of the students had to run from bed net to bed net while the mosquitoes tried to sting them. If you were stung, you then became a mosquito and chased the other students from end to end trying to sting them. It opened the dialog to talk about how the bed nets acted as a safe zone from the mosquitoes. Thus, allowing us to talk about how easy it is to protect oneself from mosquitoes by sleeping under a bed net every night. Trying to explain how transmission works, however, got a little difficult without diagrams. So, I pretended to be a mosquito, flying around the room stinging my students. They loved it! It became so much easier to show them how they can infect each other, but more importantly how they can protect each other and themselves by using a bed net. We then listened to a song that a previous volunteer wrote and recorded. Songs here are a huge hit and that activity went very well. I heard students singing it through out the week at school, at the market, and just about everywhere I went.
For the English Club, I wrote a very easy story called “Aminata Has Malaria.” It’s a story of a girl named Aminata who has malaria and goes to the doctor. At the doctor’s office, he talks about the importance of sleeping under a bed net all year round and taking all the medicine he is giving her. By over-explaining simple topics like this and asking if students can pick out words they don’t know and translating them to French, all the students were able to understand the story. After having students read it a few times, I asked comprehension questions and, surprisingly enough, the students were able to not only form sentences correctly in English, but also able to respond with in-depth answers! In a curriculum where rote memory is emphasized, I wasn’t expecting this activity to go so well. But in the end, every student was able to understand the story and its message.
One morning, I thought it would be a good idea to target the community members by making a spectacle of myself. And sure did I attract a lot of attention! I set up my mosquito net in the middle of my market, put out a tin of candy, and quizzed people about their malaria knowledge. The candy was key, or else I think every one would have been too afraid to approach the crazy foreign lady sitting under a bed net in the middle of the day during hot season. Over 25 village members were brave enough to come talk to me. I got some interesting responses to the questions. For example, when asked how malaria is transmitted, a 60-year-old man said, “You get bit by a mosquito, but that’s ok until you walk in the sunlight. Then the sun boils your body.” It’s interesting to see how past awareness projects have presented the information to the community, and the village members understand the “what” of issues. But the main problem that all volunteers face is how to change the village’s behavior and ways of thinking. Volunteers have come up with some ways of tackling this obstacle, but nevertheless it is always interesting to see what myths and beliefs exist in the community.
Over 70%!o(MISSING)f Burkina Faso’s population becomes ill from malaria during the year. But it’s not just those 70%!t(MISSING)hat are affected. Malaria kills far too many people in Africa each year, affecting 100%!o(MISSING)f the population. Peace Corps Volunteers are working with Stomp Out Malaria, a Peace Corps initiative, to help eliminate malaria throughout Africa. Check out what other volunteers are doing at www.stompoutmalaria.org/bamm2013
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