Malaria Think Tank Springs Into Action

Last week the newly formed Peace Corps Uganda Malaria Think Tank held its first meeting! Comprising the Think Tank are Malaria Team members Matt Boddie and Ashley Givan, as well as Community Health Volunteers Sarah Cornett, Kristina Sandfoss, and Chris Peterson.  The Think Tank had the opportunity to sit down with Country Director, Loucine Hayes;  Director of Programming and Training, Paul Sully; and Health Program Specialist, Cotious Tukashaba, to form a strategy that will engage Peace Corps Volunteers in all sectors to fight against malaria.

Capitalizing on the strength and innovation of other Volunteer groups within Peace Corps  Uganda, the Malaria Think Tank will collaborate with the Water and Sanitation for Health, Micro-finance, and Agricultural Think Tanks to exchange information, resources, and plan cross-cutting projects together.  The Think Tank will also work closely with the Technology Committee to make information more readily available to all Volunteers through the Peace Corps Uganda website.

Potential projects of the Malaria Think Tank include: regional malaria trainings, conducting a survey on net use and care at the household level, using Village Savings and Loans Associations as a platform for malaria education, utilizing mobile clinics to deliver education on nets, teaching tailors how to embroider decorative patterns onto nets, carrying out a study on how subsidized nets are adopted in a community, and researching treatment and pesticide resistance at a national level.

The Malaria Think Tank will meet again in January. However, members already communicate on a daily basis. They are enthusiastic about forming partnerships with civil society organizations, local governments, and international organizations.  But most importantly, they are very dedicated to ending malaria in Uganda through its best resource: Peace Corps Volunteers.

Acting Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet

Boot Camp V, Day 9: A Message from the Acting Peace Corps Director, Care Groups Model, and United Against Malaria

Today was the last full day of malaria boot camp V and no less intensive than all the other days. Sessions today included visits from Acting Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet, United Against Malaria, Peace Corps Senegal DPT Vanessa Dickey, Stomp Program Coordinator Chris Hedrick and serving malaria team members from the field.

Stomp Program Manager Matt McLaughlin opened up the morning with discussing the roles and responsibilities of the new malaria team members and presenting one decentralized strategy for organizing malaria efforts in Peace Corps countries. Afterwards, Vanessa Dickey, Peace Corps Senegal’s Deputy of Programming and Training, presented about social network theory and incorporating village care groups to promote behavior change. Vanessa led a group discussion about the care group model and tips for organizing a care group.

Boot camp participants had the opportunity to hear from current malaria team members in the field. Malaria coordinators from Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Mozambique, Madagascar, Tanzania, Zambia, and Ghana Skyped-in on a conference call to share insights from the field. They discussed some challenges they’ve encountered at their posts and offered advice to getting started.

Claudia Vondrasek, the director of the VOICES Malaria Advocacy Project, joined the group via Skype to explain the United Against Malaria global awareness campaign. She walked the participants through campaign’s key strategies such as utilizing soccer as a platform for delivering the malaria message and urging African political leaders to prioritize malaria work. Claudia also discussed ways for Peace Corps Volunteers to become involved in the campaign.

Stomp Program Coordinator, Chris Hedrick, followed Claudia on Skype. Chris spoke about the Peace Corps value proposition and differentiation. Staff and Volunteers brainstormed unique advantages they have as volunteers doing grassroots work.  Volunteers broke into small groups and worked on their “elevator pitch” for partners and practiced in front of the group.

Audacity Editing

Boot Camp V participants Anne Hoblitt-Linn, Lova Rakotoarisoa, Kelly Ann Sawyer, Simon Banda, and Raffaele Macri create their own malaria PSA using Audacity.

Following Chris, Acting Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet addressed the newest malaria team members. She congratulated the Volunteers and Staff on their hard work and innovation in this unprecedented initiative.  She shared her own experience of the burden of malaria when she was living in the Gambia with her husband. The young son of one of her guards fell ill with malaria one night and passed away just a few days later. The death of the young boy struck her hard as the boy was about the same age as her own son at the time. The Director said that is she proud of the important life-saving work that Peace Corps Volunteers are doing every day and encourages them to continue the fight.

PCVLs Jillian Husman and Mike Toso wrapped up this Friday with a session about using local radio as a way to promote a malaria message. They showed participants how to use Audacity, an open-source sound editing software, to create their own radio shows. Participants divided into groups and created their own 30-second malaria radio spots.

Weekly Awesome Zambia: Training

Zambia rolled out Focus-In-Train-Up (FITU) Pre-Service Training (PST) Malaria 101 Training Sessions the first week of August. Stomp Coordinator, Jane Coleman attended the pre-service training training of trainers (TOT) to explain the new FITU manual and what Peace Corps Headquarters is requiring of all trainings and of Peace Corps Trainees.

68 Community Health Improvement Project (CHIP) Volunteers and Rural Aquaculture Project Volunteers will work with their language teachers on malaria vocabulary in over 10 local languages. Stomp Coordinator, Jane Coleman, and PMI Resident Advisor, Dr. Allen Craig traveled to the CHIP Chipembi PST training site on Saturday, August 3rd, to share with the new trainees about malaria transmission, misconceptions on transmission, and Stomping Out Malaria in Africa and our international partners. The trainees also learned about and discussed  the four pillars of malaria.

34 trainees were present during the first FITU malaria 101. The trainees were very receptive to the malaria training and eager to partake in malaria work once they install at their respective sites. Next Monday, Craig and Jane will return to the training site to conduct a second presentation to the group which will cover more in-depth knowledge about malaria and tangible interventions that PCVs can partake in.

Zambia PMI Resident Advisor Dr. Allen Criag explains the malaria transmission cycle.

Weekly Awesome Zambia: Film Crew Visit

Peace Corps Headquarters sent a film crew to Zambia to learn and highlight what Peace Corps Volunteers, Peace Corps Response Volunteers, and Peace Corps Volunteer Leaders are doing in the field. Peace Corps/Zambia has one of the largest numbers of third-year extension rates and Peace Corps Response Volunteers. Volunteers of all sectors in Zambia are working in malaria prevention. The film crew spent a week traveling around Zambia visiting volunteers in their sites documenting volunteer malaria prevention efforts.

During the week, Jane Coleman, Zambia Stomp Coordinator, arranged the site visits and logistics for the film crew’s trip and traveled with them around the country. Peace Corps Communications Staff Edward Perry and Lee Gillenwater collected great footage that will be used for Peace Corps recruitment and promoting materials next Fall.

The crew and Jane Coleman traveled to Luapula Province to film PCVs David Berger, Brittany McFall, and John Abrams collecting data for the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) Net Durability Study. The crew also filmed PCVs Tiffany Saria working with a grassroots soccer organizaion, and Kelsey Simmons and Kelly Finwall working with Safe Motherhood Action Group under the Saving Mothers Giving Life Initiative with USAID. Peace Corps Zambia was thrilled to host the film crew and are excited to see how Peace Corps usages the footage in future promotional materials.

Weekly Awesome Zambia: Natural Mosquito Repellent Production

Natural Mosquito Repellent Production in Zambia: Soaps and Lotions:  Results of the research, design, and development of locally produced repellents in the Appropriate Technology context  in Luapula Province, Zambia

Luapula Province, Zambia is blessed with fertile waterways, seasonal rivers, and an abundance of low lying wetlands. Combined with a reliably warm climate, these factors result in a comparatively high incidence of malaria. In Mansa district alone, there were an estimated 516 cases per 1000 people in 2006 (PSI). The need for locally accessible means of prevention is clear as education and net distribution, while effective in reducing case incidence, are not comprehensive.

A team of two Peace Corps Volunteers and two Host Country National Counterparts from rural communities developed, produced and tested various methods for the prevention of malaria via application of natural soaps and lotions at an Appropriate Technology Workshop held in Mansa, Luapula Province, Zambia, 22/05/2012 – 27/05/2012. The team developed the idea for their products by setting a series of design requirements to ensure that the repellents would be affordable, accessible, culturally compatible, and effective. This was accomplished through researching ICE materials and interviews with HCNs that live in the affected communities.

[heading style=”1″]Lotion Production Results:[/heading]
The team found that lotion production in particular has a strong cultural precedent in the Luapula area. Palm oil is used in the Lake Bangweulu area in the eastern part of the province as a moisturizing lotion for the skin and as a cooking fuel. Palm is so ubiquitous in this region that prices are well below the market value of any other oil, estimated at ZMK 8,000 (US$ 1.60) per 2.5 Liters of raw product. This accessibility makes palm oil an excellent candidate for use in natural production.

Neem leaves were used to give the lotion a repellent quality. Neem trees grow well in the Mansa area but are not very common throughout the region. The team used a recipe that used shea butter as a base and chose to replace this ingredient with palm oil to make the lotion more locally applicable (Neem Cream Recipe: A Natural Mosquito Repellent, Olga Samborska & Nyima Camara, PC/Gambia). The neem leaves were boiled and the resulting tea was mixed with soap shavings and palm oil to produce an attractive orange lotion. This product was very popular with HCN counterparts attending the workshop and has a high degree of cultural compatibility. Many of the HCN counterparts suggested adding glycerin solution to the lotion, a practice widespread in Zambia, to provide more cosmetic properties.

Testing results were mixed. Several PCVs used the lotion in the evenings to see how effective a repellent it is but not clear control was established and feedback was too varied to adequately process. The lotion needs to be tested for resiliency and effectiveness with captive mosquitoes under close observation for an accurate assessment. These conditions were not possible to meet at the Provincial Resource Center in Mansa and should be considered in the future.

[heading style=”1″]Soap Production Results:[/heading]
The design team found that soap production is cultural compatible and feasible in rural Luapula but is not prevalent. Basic recipes use raw plant oil, caustic soda, water, and a mould to manufacture solid bars of soap and are easily demonstrated. The use of caustic soda is questionable as the substance is relatively hazardous and only available in more urban markets. Caustic soda is affordable, however, with an estimated cost of ZMK 11,000 (US$ 2.20) per kilogram; a cost of about ZMK 2,000 (US$ 0.40) per kilogram of soap. This ingredient may be replaced with a local soda produced from potash in the future and further testing is necessary.

The team tested citronella production methods that used citrus rind from orange and lemon as well as lemongrass using hot water extraction. This proved to be rather difficult as it was not possible to easily decant the resulting citronella oil from the water. The team decided that using bruised orange peel and lemongrass would be easier to accomplish in the rural setting and applied this technique to an existing recipe for jatropha oil soap (The Jatropha Manual: A Guide to the Integrated Exploitation of the Jatropha Plant in Zambia, Reinhard Henning, bagani GbR) to take advantage of jatropha’s repellent qualities. Caustic soda and water were mixed to produce a lye solution that was then mixed with jatropha oil, orange peel, and lemongrass. The resulting mixture was poured into bamboo moulds lined with old plastic bags and left to harden. Jatropha is found in many places in Luapula but is not prevalent and oil production is not widespread. The oil also proved to be so strong in odor that the resulting soap smelled a bit like diesel fuel when combined with orange peel and lemongrass. These factors do not make jatropha oil a good candidate for adoption of this soap in rural communities. The team suggested mixing palm and sunflower oils, found easily in Luapula, for use in soap production in place of jatropha. The workshop did not allow adequate time to test this idea and participants expressed interest in continuing to experiment in their respective communities.

[heading style=”1″]Malaria Prevention as Appropriate Technology[/heading]
The Appropriate Technology context allows for the kind of grassroots brainstorming, research, and development necessary to create sustainable solutions to the malaria repellent question. Abandoning the “one-size-fits-all” demonstration model in favor of tapping local knowledge, skills, and resources produced a wealth of empirical experience that can be used for future development. The team presented their findings and prototype products at a showcase on the final day of the workshop, leading to dissemination and sharing of knowledge through conversation and practical demonstration from HCN to HCN and PCV to PCV. The flexible and adaptive nature of AT will continue to provide interesting solutions to the malaria prevention question as PCVs and HCNs continue to research, design, and develop their ideas into practical methodology.

Team Sierra Leone’s Boot Camp Experience

Boot Camp, Day 2: Country presentations - Sierra Leone

Stomping Out Malaria’s Boot Camp IV in Senegal was the first to include volunteers from the small West African nation of Sierra Leone. Re-opening after 16 years, Peace Corps Sierra Leone currently has only an education sector in operation. Having teachers in secondary schools all over the country will allow us to teach the youth of Sierra Leone facts about malaria, how it is tramsmitted, and how families can most effectively protect themselves and their children from the disease.
At boot camp, we learned vital tactics for conducting the formative research essential to properly assess the malaria dilemma in Sierra Leone. We discussed the difficulties of affecting behaviour change, analyzed its process, and brainstormed on how to bring it about and make it sustainable.
Doctors from the CDC, NIH, and the Kyle Lab of USF taught us how the lifecycle  of the parasite works, and the realities of preventative medication, from drug resistancy to the eventual implementation of a vaccine (RTS,S). We observed the inner-workings of the Senegalese medical institutions, visiting health huts, field posts, and hospitals, discussed the availability of medicine, how the supply chain is organized, and were able to witness proper patient care that was transparent and precise.
When we return to Sierra Leone, through a partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), we intend to meet with representatives from the Ministry of Education, Sports, and Technology (MEST) to plan the implementation of malaria education into the national curriculum.
In July, we will present the Stomping Out Malaria strategy plan of action for the 42 trainees who will swear in as volunteers in August. We will give them our minimum expectations of their role in this fight: making lesson plans in their various subjects that educate about malaria, and collecting data on the malaria situation in their village through a baseline survey that we are in the process of creating.
A similar presentation will be conducted at the Mid-Service Conference for the Salone 2 volunteers currently in the field on the 30th of August.
We look forward to updating soon on our progress!
Liam Flaherty and Eric Silverman
Malaria Team Coordinators
Sierra Leone

Final Day of Boot Camp IV

Introducing the newest members of the Malaria Team! Malaria Boot Camp IV came to a close today after ten rigorous days filled with insightful presentations, field visits, group discussions, and hands-on activities. Boot camp graduates are packing up to return to their respective posts. Upon arrival, each Malaria Team Member will disseminate his or her knowledge to fellow volunteers and implement a concrete actions plan in order to contribute to the reduction of malaria in the targeted countries.

The last day began with a session on grant writing and reviewing led by Stomp Program Manager Matt McLaughlin. Participants learned how to properly turn their action plans into grant applications. The next session of the day explored the wide source of online resources and how to use them effectively. Finally, each participant shared his or her country action plan and strategies for getting started. Bon voyage Malaria Team! STOMP!