Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Take Action Against Malaria

Quite a long time without updates. That's the nature of affairs out in the bush. But I'm back and I have a few things on my mind. The first is Malaria, others to follow. I have decided to get involved in a campaign to purchase and distribute insecticide-treated mosquito nets in my region of The Gambia.

I see the effects of Malaria in my community all the time. Mosquitos (the transmitters of Malaria) are present in my community throughout most of the year. People often come to me with malaria-esque symptoms complaining of fatigue and pain all over their body. Everyone in my village knows of at least a few people who have lost loved ones to the illness.

Every year Malaria infects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. In sub-saharan Africa alone the loss in productivity due to illness and death is said to be more than $10 billion. Malaria is a preventable illness. One of the ways proven to be most effective in preventing malarial infection is to sleep under a treated bednet. That's why I am excited to get involved with this project. If fewer people contract malaria because they were protected by mosquito nets, then the chances of people contracting malaria in the future will be reduced because fewer people will have the malarial parasites that are passed on by the mosquitoes. It just makes sense for people to use the nets.

The Against Malaria Foundation, which I am contributing to, spends 100% of it's donations on long lasting insecticide-treated bednets. Peace Corps Volunteers in The Gambia are part of an effort to raise $40,000 for nets to be distributed in The Gambia. A generous donor has offered to match every dollar for a potential total of $80,000 going towards nets. At about $5 per net, the idea is to ship a container of 16,000 nets to The Gambia and distribute them in conjunction with a community sensitization campaign about the importance of the nets, how to use them and how to take care of them.

I'm usually a little skeptical of efforts to just give handouts to poor communities and expect them to manage the gifts themselves. These types of donations are perceived by the communities as aid from the outside as opposed to a partnership that values them as an equal stakeholders. With that in mind, I plan on seriously attempting to seek contributions to the bednet project from Gambians, particularly those living abroad with more disposable income. Gambian contributions are essential to the sustainability of this project and will demonstrate to everyone that Gambian people are aware of the dangers of Malaria and value taking action to ensure their families remain in good health.

Because many of the recipients will be from my own area, I hope to be actively involved in the whole process, from fundraising to distribution to sensitization.
If YOU want to contribute please follow this link and donate towards the purchase of treated bednets.
I honestly think this is a worthy cause if the Gambian involvement can be strong enough and I'm excited to be a part of the whole effort. I too sleep under a net every night in my thatch roof hut and it's quite comfortable. It's like having your own little castle. My Gambian friends deserve to be kings and queens of their own castles as well. Let's make it happen. Hopefully follow up to come.

Here's a past distribution of some treated nets in Senegal through the same project.

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