Ben Gascoigne – Rice Sacks and World Malaria Day

April 25th is World Malaria Day. On that day, mosquito net care and repair stations will be available at my community’s health post and 196 rice sacks will line the road from my village’s town center to the health post. Needles, thread, soap, buckets, and water will be provided through community donations and partners. Community health workers will be present to demonstrate proper net maintenance (i.e., washing nets, sewing torn nets, and tie knots where nets have holes), lead discussions relating to the economic impact of malaria (i.e., saving rice), and demonstrate how to change square nets to round.

Recently, my counterpart and I conducted mosquito nets care and maintenance consultations using Networks-created informational cards. We noticed community members were most engaged while discussing the money that can be saved by reducing the incidence of malaria (i.e., by sleeping under a properly maintained mosquito net). For this reason, I decided to calculate the amount of money spent by my community’s members on malaria consultations and medication in 2011. I met with my the head nurse at my health post and to discuss and document the cost of consultations and routine medication prescribed for simple and sever malaria (including paracetamol), and to break the costs down by age range to closely match the age ranges recorded in the health registry.

My community spent 3,039,100CFA (about 6,078USD) on malaria consultations and medication in 2011. This number did not impress the leaders of my village as I had hoped. To visually represent this figure, I decided to present it in a culturally significant manner: using rice sacks. One sack of rice in my regional capital costs 15,000CFA. Calculating for transportation to my village, the amount my community spent on malaria consultations and medication in 2011 equates to 196 sacks of rice—one sack of rice feeds approximately one family for one month.

I have set on a journey to buy 196 rice sacks to visually motivate my community to proactively fight malaria. These rice sacks will be stuffed with dead grass and stitched shut. On World Malaria Day, they will be used to line the main stretch of road to my community’s health post. Extra sacks will be placed on the inside perimeter of the health post compound. Community health workers at the health post will emphasize that sleeping under your net and going to the health post early when you have a fever will save your family money (i.e., rice). My community partner and I hope this stunning image of rice sacks will attract villagers to the health post and leave a lasting impression of the economic burden of malaria.


Above is a photo of me buying rice sacks at a Pulaar market in Dakar. I was able to purchase 75 sacks that day. In total, I have purchased 191 rice sacks, all of which have been transported to my Kedougou. The next step is to bike the rice sacks to my village and to recruit children to help me fill the sacks with dead grass.


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