Happy World Malaria Month! Following World Malaria Day on April 25th, we’ve been having a regional competition to see who can do the most Malaria-related projects in their area. There are two reasons why it’s important to focus on Malaria in The Gambia right now – the upcoming rainy season and the nationwide bednet distribution that is happening currently.
Malaria is spread by mosquitoes, more specifically the Anopholes gambiae mosquito species in our region. These mosquitoes use small amounts of standing water as breeding grounds – and during the rainy season there are puddles and containers that fill with water all around. There will be an increase in the amount of mosquitoes, and then an increase in the amount of malaria cases. To prevent the spread of malaria, it’s important to sleep until Long-Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets (LLINs) and to remove the places where mosquitoes can breed. Every four years, there is a nationwide bednet distribution targeting all communities in The Gambia. The distribution is happening now and will ensure that there is at least one bed net for every two people in The Gambia, totaling over one million bednets.
A few Malaria facts:
The mosquitoes (Anopholes gambiae) spread the Protozoa (Plasmodium falciparum) while blood feeding on humans. Only female mosquitoes blood feed, and symptoms appear within 10-20 days of the bite. Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, and vomiting and can lead to a life threading disease. In village, you can use a finger prick Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) to check for Malaria and can treat immediately if the drugs are available.
In my village, I’ve been working in malaria prevention – especially bed net usage, into our computer classes! We’ve been designing educational flyers and talking about the importance of sleeping under a bed net every night.
Last week, my counterpart (the Community Health Nurse) and I attended a Malaria Boot camp to learn about new and innovative ways to combat malaria. Heading back to our village, we’re going to start pushing for outdoor bed nets when people sleep outside because of the heat. During the camp, we made village-friendly posts to hang a bed net outside with just some cement in a can. That way the bed net can be taken down and moved easily (bed nets shouldn’t hang outside in the sun, it gets rid of the insecticide). We’re also going to do a training for Village Health Workers to remind them of the signs and symptoms of malaria, how to test using the RDT, and how to administer the medicine.
Last year, there were 200,000 cases of malaria in The Gambia resulting in 150 deaths. As Peace Corps volunteers, we’re working with the Ministry of Health and our community members to help The Gambia achieve elimination of malaria by 2020 for a happier and healthier country. #StompOutMalaria