Good morning friends,

Today I’m writing to you about our Malaria activities in my catchment. I’ve been working hard on a couple of different programs, and I feel it’s important to take a moment and highlight some of the great work that we’re doing as a community to combat Malaria!

We focus primarily on Malaria control, and of course at the clinic (Rural Health Center) we provide Coartem, Rapid Diagnostic Tests, and care. That said, over the last three month’s we’ve been working on a program that was started by Plan International in 2012, and which has really taken off in the first and now second quarter. That’s the CLTS program, better known as the Community Led Total Sanitation program. It’s a program which mobilizes community leaders, and hygiene and sanitation champions in each community, who then go out and train, sensitize, and monitor sanitation and hygiene activities. Those activities range from ensuring that each household has a drying rack, toilet (pit latrine), refuse pit, and hand washing facility, to transect walks and combating open defecation. Most importantly in terms of Malaria, we’ve worked to link their work into our Malaria control activities. Having them sensitize their fellow community members about Malaria control – particularly the areas where the two activities overlap – compound cleanliness, filling of open holes and pits where water can sit in the open, and covering their latrines so that mosquitoes can’t use them to breed. We also encourage household to cut long grass nearby the house – although it’s been a struggle, since most of their farming plots come within 3-5 meters (10-15ft) of their homes. Those tall corn stalks sure look inviting to our unwelcome guests the mosquito!

Aside from that activity, each patient who comes to the clinic is sensitized about malaria control, and the basic ways to prevent it – using an ITN (insecticide treated bed-net), wearing long clothing at night, and recognizing the difference between a normal malady and Malaria. We also focus on training expectant mothers about Intermittent Preventative Treatment during pregnancy, and the dangers of malaria in pregnancy. Each Antenatal session (every Thursday) presents on HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Good Nutrition, and Birth preparedness/Danger Signs/Birth Planning. That means that we’re reaching to some of the most vulnerable populations, and helping to continuously sensitize and encourage good behavior to help protect them. It’s a slow process in terms of behavior change, but little by little we’re seeing some progress.

I’m also a participant in the Stomp Out Malaria Initiative, which has us working on Malaria control and community mobilization and sensitization for the prevention and proper treatment of Malaria at a rural level.
Talking about Malaria and our activities in the community, it’s a good idea for me to mention that as a participant in the Stomp Out Malaria program, it’s important for me to provide some background.
Stomping Out Malaria in Africa is a Peace Corps initiative that uses strategic partnerships, targeted training of Volunteers and the intelligent use of information technology to support the local malaria prevention efforts of over 3,000 Volunteers in sub-Saharan Africa. We’re excited and proud to be participating and working toward the goal of ending malaria in the Sub Saharan region, and look forward to continuing our involvement as Peace Corps Zambia Volunteers!! For more information go to stompoutmalaria.org and follow Stomp activities at http://www.facebook.com/StompOutMalaria.

We’re using our unique placement, skill sets, and access to our communities to promote responsible behaviors and work to end malaria! In that line, Peace Corps Zambia is participating in a two-year study on use of long-lasting insecticide treated nets in villages and rural communities. I’ve been trained as a research assistant and working with my counterpart we’ve been conducting a sampling through door-to-door surveys on household nets in my area every six months. This is an ongoing study for nets distributed in 2011 and will be completed in April 2014. This study is a collaboration with Zambia National Malaria Control Center and Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. The purpose of this study is to measure the insecticide levels of the nets, as well as their overall appearance and durability after 3 years of use and assist Zambia in planning future net distributions. It’s great to be part of a project that will result in long-term benefits for Zambia.

The study has also allowed me to gain a better understanding of the living conditions, and daily struggles of traditional Zambian life. I have a pretty good idea due to the nature of my Peace Corps service, living in a village, in a traditional structure – grass thatch roofing and mud brick, but it’s markedly different how we set up and maintain our housing in comparison with rural villagers, and often we prioritize things differently in terms of upkeep and renovation. That understanding has had a marked impact on the types of sensitization and the way that I’ve approached projects relating to sanitation, malaria control, and positive health promotion in relation to a compound and housing. It’s also allowed me to better understand daily life and conditions of a broad selection of villagers. That’s because outside of these inspections, and our village inspections conducted by the NHC, it is very rare to enter into someone’s home. To a point that there is actually a required traditional structure – an Insaka (basically a gazebo) which is where you meet visitors.

We’re looking forward to a community project on the 25th to help commemorate world malaria day, I’ll hopefully write an update then!

Catch up soon friends!