It may have not happened on World Malaria Day, but this past July when Mazabuka District Health Office dropped off 7,500 ITN’s, Magoye village (population 18,000) was determined and ready to STOMP out Malaria in Southern Province. Peace Corps Health Volunteer Nia Cheers, worked with her clinic on malaria education and distributing bed nets.
The entire project was constructed under Magoye’s Rural Health Center Environmental Health Technologist Bwalya Musiska. The guidelines were simple. A mass community assessment for data collection was to be done by community health workers and volunteers, new ITN’s were given to those who did not have a net or were replaced by old ITN’s that had tears or holes, and each sleeping space was accounted for was to receive a new ITN.
A one day community workshop was held back in June to help provide education and information about the distribution process and ensure that the guidelines were successfully met. The distribution process included having the volunteers open the package, handing it to the household member, who brought the net home, then returned the empty package to the clinic. CHW’s also had door to door campaigns and assisted hanging the nets in the homes. The workshop also provided correct education on Malaria, dispelling any myths or incorrect information about the disease.
I had the opportunity to follow two community health workers during the mass ITN distribution in Magoye village. Ms. Beatrice Chimandha, a neighborhood watch volunteer who participated in distributing ITN’s for the first time said that she was excited to be a part of such a powerful movement, “Malaria is a major killer in Zambia and it’s important to do what we can to help prevent ourselves from the disease. Sleeping under ITN’s will help do that”. Ms. Beatrice helped distribute a total of 97 ITN’s over a period of three weeks.
Lawerence Mainza, Vice Chair Person of Magoye Center NHC was another influential person in helping distribute ITN’s. He attended the one day workshop held by the clinic and has previous experience of distributing ITN’s and education on Malaria. We collectively went out into the community to hang nets and provide further education on Malaria. “The biggest challenge is educating people on Malaria and getting them to sleep under the ITN,” Lawerence stated. “People need to understand the importance of why they have been given a net. We need to educate people more at PMTCT, Ante-Natal Clinic, and Under Five programs”.
The overall mass distribution of ITN’s in Magoye village was a great experience to be a part of and was successfully completed in two weeks. Moving out into the community and talking about Malaria and ensuring that ITN’s were properly hung is the only way that we will actively STOMP out Malaria. With the help of my clinic and community health workers, it’s a mission that we are all set out to accomplish.