Weekly Awesome Ghana: PCV Sonia Slavinski Recounts Neem Demonstrations

By Sonia Slavinski

It’s the beginning of the rainy season in the northern regions of Ghana, and in the Upper East region, the mosquitoes are starting to breed and cases of malaria are becoming more prevalent. The bed net distribution happened a few months ago, but the population is still vulnerable to bites when the mosquitoes are most active. With the help and support of the two local clinics, the Sirigu Clinic and the Bugsongo Clinic, I’ve been doing neem cream demonstrations for mothers with babies ages 0-3. So far, I’ve done six demonstrations at the Sirigu Clinic and four at the Bugsongo Clinic. In addition, I held another demonstration at the local orphanage called Sirigu Babies Home which is run by Martyrs of Uganda Catholic Church. I talked to Sister Martha to organize this event, who is one of the three Sisters that live there. It went really well, and the Sisters even supplied two times the amount of shea butter and key soap to my one. The participants included the three Sisters and a representative for each orphaned child, who happened to be a family member or relative.

For the demonstrations at the Sirigu Clinic, I talked to Nurse Patience a month before the baby weighing. All of the communities surrounding the clinic has a monthly baby weighing, which is organized by two health volunteers from their respective communities. Patience communicated with the health volunteers in each community to have the women bring supplies. Each woman brought one piece of firewood, neem leaves and a small container so that they could take a sample home with them. The nearest woman brought the pot to prepare the neem cream in. I supplied the rest of the materials (shea butter, key soap, strainer, matches and water), which are available in the village. When the neem leaves were boiling, another Sirigu Clinic nurse, Mary, and I talked to the women about where malaria comes from, the most readily available environmental control methods, and steps to prepare the neem cream. Mary translated from English into the local language of Gurune. When she wasn’t available, one of the volunteers from the community translated. Between 30 and 40 women attended each demonstration.

The Bugsongo Clinic is a maternal clinic with midwives only. Nurses Beatrice and Felicia were my contacts and helped with demonstrations. The weighings are much larger and we had around 100 people attend each demonstration. I supplied the shea butter and key soap for the first demonstration and the Bugsongo Clinic provided supplies the for the other three demonstrations.

Compared to other projects, this one has been relatively easy and a huge success. The women loved learning how to make neem lotion and they already understand the importance of preventing malaria. It would be more ideal if there were a few less women, but I think the training was still effective despite the large group. The only reason is when we are doing the cooking, there are only so many women who can see when they are circled around. The ideal size would be 15 to 20 women. A couple of things I learned after the first training: bring matches to light the fire and don’t distribute the neem cream out yourself, have a volunteer do it. The volunteer knew the women better to organize them and was not afraid to yell, if needed. At each of the trainings, someone brought up selling the neem cream in the market before I suggested it to them. There was interest in selling it but no one has taken the initiative yet. Other local pomades have been seen in the market.

I’ll be doing two more trainings over the next month for Sirigu Clinic. There are only two communities left that we haven’t done a demonstration for. There was even a lot of interest from traders in the community so I did a neem cream demonstration for 20 market sellers who are women.

Follow Sonia on her blog at http://www.tumblr.com/blog/iveghanatoghana.

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