Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Hey everyone! I am so sorry that I have not written in several months but I am finally back and hoping to be consistent this time. Part of the difficulty of writing this blogpost is writing original, interesting and positive material. Part of the Peace Corps objective is third goal, which basically entails representing the host country back in the United States, or at least describing it for Americans. So here we go again.
Since I am getting back to work, it is worth talking about a new project as of August that is one of my top priorities right now, and that is house visits. In the last few months I have had a handful of setbacks when two or three projects fell through and the main counterparts I work with have been busy, away, moving away or simply uninterested. School has also been out of session and a large amount of people were away visiting families between Ramadan and school starting. So I began performing house visits, in which I would go into a home, check to see if the homeowner has and uses a mosquito net, and discuss malaria with them as well.
This project is well worth mentioning because it gave me a chance to see how active people were in fighting such a relevant and dangerous disease in the community. The results, to be blunt, were a little disappointing. I would say about three quarters of the people I visited had mosquito nets but less than a quarter of those people actually used them. What made this worse and more awkward was that most people told me they did not have them even when they did and they would insist that they were using them even when they were clearly tied up and had been for a longtime. They did this because they thought (incorrectly) I was giving them or registering them for new ones. Thus I asked people to let me into their bedrooms (that was the awkward part) so I could see if they actually had or used them. Twice, I was standing in front of someone's house, asked if they had one, was told they didn't and then I pointed to the mosquito net through bedroom window behind them and asked what is that?
I understand why some of them lied, they wanted or needed another one. But what bothered me was it was often clear the ones they had were not being used in the first place and they were often tied up over the bed of the head of the household instead of being used for the most vulnerable: young children (and pregnant women). This was a little disheartening but I used the time to encourage the use of the mosquito nets they had, explained how pregnant women could get them for free at a nearby hospital with a prenatal consultation and explained important details of malaria.
Recent news reports indicate that efforts to fight malaria have been working and showing impressive results. However, as I have seen, efforts by governments and NGOs will only show truly significant results if individuals are as active in fighting malaria. I also performed house visits in Bolinting where my counterpart Housseini was extremely active in promoting health in the community. Sure enough the difference was impressive. Many more people used their mosquito nets each night. However even there far from the whole community had and used them, which is so important in fishing villages like Bolinting and Mbakaou. I hope to see improvements in the future, since as of now, the malaria vaccine is far from ready and personal practices are the greatest protections from the number one killer in Africa.
I hope you are all well and I promise to get back to writing these on a more regular basis.