Michael Lessmeier is a rural education volunteer in Central province of Zambia teaching English at Teta Basic School for students in Grades 8 and 9. Michael observed a high absentee rate of students caused by malaria and decided to work with the community to address this issue.
First, Michael met with the local village leader, Mr. Davis, who is addressed as the headman. Mr. Davis instructed the neighbor health committee (NHC) volunteers to complete a census to determine the number of households and bed spaces. Data from the census concluded that many households did not have enough nets for the sleeping spaces. Michael also surveyed 550 students in grades 3 to 9 and found less than 10% had slept under a bednet the previous night.
Alarmed by this information, the headman, clinic staff and neighborhood health committee (NHC) members gathered in October to determine the best course of action. They recognized the need not only for more bednets but more education on malaria and prevention. To begin this process Michael submitted a Small Project Assistance grant (SPA) to purchase the 500 nets needed for the village. Then he worked with NHC members and teachers at Teta school to develop a malaria program.
On November 15th, Michael conducted a workshop for eight NHC volunteers on how malaria is transmitted, signs and symptoms, prevention methods and ways to repair a bednet. One of the teachers from the school assisted in translating the information. The purpose of this training was to have these volunteers teach this information at antenatal clinics and under five clinics.
On November 16th, Teta Malaria Day was held at the health post facility near the school. Each household in the village was eligible to receive a bednet, and an adult member of the household had to attend the malaria information program in order to receive the net. The training information was provided in four stations: transmission, signs and symptoms, prevention and how to properly hang the net. A station for net repair was done by NHC members. A teacher from Teta School conducted these 10 minute sessions in Bemba, the local language. These information sessions were conducted in groups of 25 people.
When all the information sessions were completed, the nets were distributed to each household member from the census. The package of each net was opened and given to the household member and an information brochure on malaria was included with each net.
Two members of the neighborhood health committee are also trained in maternal and child care, and affiliated with the Safe Motherhood Action Group (SMAG) assisted in the day’s events. These members conducted brief talks on the importance of attending antenatal and the benefits to for the mother and baby. Michael also had assistance from other PCVs, Andrew Bernhard, Courtney Gandy and Jennifer Parks in distribution, health information and bed net repairs.
The Teta Village Malaria Day was a great success with 500 families receiving much needed bednets and malaria prevention information. Mr. Davis, the village headman, said he was “very grateful to Michael and Peace Corps” for helping with malaria prevention.