We are currently in the rainy season which means farms, grasses, and lots of mosquitoes. Anopheles mosquitoes, especially Anopheles Gambiae (discovered in The Gambia), are vectors of malaria. The months with highest transmission of malaria will come in September or October, and so now is the most important time to prevent the spread of the disease.
The Gambia is in the Pre-Elimination stage of malaria and has set a goal to eliminate malaria by 2020. The region in which I live, the North Bank, is closest to elimination and last year we only saw about 10 cases of malaria at the clinic. This has been achieved through nationwide bed net distributions every 2 years, rapid diagnostic tests and medicine (Coartem), prophylaxis for pregnant mothers and children under 5, and spraying pesticides to reduce the amount of mosquitoes.
As Peace Corps volunteers, we have the ability to take part in the elimination of malaria. These large scale government programs have gotten us this far, and now it will take on-the-ground village level monitoring of individual cases and prevention through bed net checks and environmental cleanings. This was the theme of our 2018 Malaria Boot Camp: attacking malaria from all angles.
8 Peace Corps volunteers and 8 counterparts spent 3 days learning about mosquitoes and malaria, but also about encouraging behavior change in schools, villages, and individual compounds. We “hunted” for mosquito larvae, explored ways to clean our environments of standing water, mended and beautified bed nets, played malaria related games, made rice bag books, and painted a malaria mural. We must attack malaria from all angles, and we have the ability to do that in our villages with our counterparts.
This was my last activity as National Coordinator of our Malaria Task Force, and it was rewarding to be able to lead sessions on malaria transmission and prevention entirely in the local language, Wolof. It was exciting to see PCVs and counterparts take the information and action plan for malaria activities in their villages.