By: PCV Sarah Kuech
My name is Sarah Kuech and I am Preventative Health Volunteer in an 800 person village in the Velingara district of Senegal. I came to Senegal in March of 2010. My primary focuses in my village have been analyzing medical records to better understand the needs of the community, and projects on malaria and family planning.
Every year, hundreds of people are treated for malaria at my village health post. In 2010, the National Malaria Control Program implemented a universal mosquito net coverage campaign that included my district. However, during the first year of my service, I observed that most people did not sleep under their nets every night. The health post staff – Chief Nurse Marie Theres Sambou, Pharmacist Tentu Sabaly, Local Health Extension Agent Djibi Mballo – and I identified consistent bed net use as a significant problem within our community. In December 2011 when peak malaria season was winding down, we began to brainstorm ideas of how to promote bed net usage through a number of informal and formal meetings. This usually consisted of someone pitching an idea to the group then everyone discussing whether or not it was feasible.
In February 2012, I attended the Stomping Out Malaria in Africa Boot Camp – a ten-day intensive international malaria training in Thies, Senegal. During boot camp, Burkina Faso PCV Bridget Roby presented a malaria photo project that encouraged community members to properly use their bed nets. The idea behind the project is to give community members an incentive to use their bed nets and motivate those without bed nets to acquire one. Community members who are properly using their nets have their photo taken next to their net and the photo is displayed at the local health center. I presented the idea to the local health team and we decided to try the project in our own community.
To begin the project, Djibi Mballo and I visited all 44 households in our community to see who had been properly using their bed nets. If the community member had their bed net hung properly, we took a picture of him/her with the net. If a household did not have a net, Djibi educated them on how they could acquire one from the health post as part of a redistribution campaign. During the campaign, every pregnant woman on her first prenatal visit is eligible for a free net, and every person who pays for a consultation (no matter what their ailment is) is eligible for a 500 CFA (roughly $1) subsidized net.
After the pictures were printed, we posted them at the Health Post, along with a sign that reads in the local language, “We sleep under our nets to protect ourselves from malaria.” Anyone who comes to our health post now can see all 192 pictures posted. The people in the pictures are proud to point out their picture to anyone who comes to visit the health post. The project has also created an incentive for those who are not pictured to acquired a new nets for a photo.
Overall, I felt as though this project achieved its mission of promoting net usage and pride within our community. It also was a great way to reach out to everyone without nets and educate them about how to acquire a new net. The next steps in the project are to evaluate exactly how much more people are using their bed nets and how many more people purchased bed nets due because of the intervention.