On a sunny November morning Djibi Mballo walks into the Sare Coly Salle Health Post and gazes across the dozens of lethargic children lying in their mothersâ€™ arms. He purposefully greets every patient and every health worker. He then picks up his stethoscope, thermometer, and blood pressure cuff, and begins his long day of work. He steadily works his way through the long line of patients, taking the temperature and blood pressure of each. When the patient proceeds to the consultation, Djibi assists with the administration of a Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) for malaria (if they are in stock). He pokes the patientâ€™s finger, withdrawing a single drop of blood, and deposits it into the basin on the test. After two minutes have passed, Djibi and the chief nurse explain the results of the test to the patient. If it is positive, the nurse must decide whether or not the symptoms are indicative of severe malaria. Severe malaria has all of the same symptoms of simple malaria (fever, headache, nausea and vomiting, body aches); however, if the fever is higher (39.5?C/103.1?F) and the symptoms are more severe, it is called severe malaria and it is more difficult to treat. If not, the patient is given a placket of ACT (a three-day long pill regimen) by the pharmacist and sent home. If severe malaria is confirmed, Djibi gives the patient the first injection of Quinine and connects an intravenous line to counter her severe dehydration.
In Sare Coly Salle, contracting malaria means a crisis for the entire family. The medicine for severe malaria will cost roughly 20,000 CFA, which is more than the cost of a sack of rice that could feed a family of five for one to two weeks. The family also loses money in labor. Every day that that person has malaria is a day that they canâ€™t work in their familyâ€™s field, potentially negatively impacting their harvest, decreasing the amount of food that theyâ€™ll have for the following year. If the person with malaria is a woman, she can no longer help cook for her family, which will increase the work burden of the other women on the compound. If the woman is pregnant, having malaria could cause her baby to be born at a dangerously low birth weight. It could also cause the parasite to cross the placenta and enter the babyâ€™s blood stream, resulting in the baby being born already infected. If that woman is a mother, she can no longer properly care for her child. Furthermore, if she is the mother of a breastfeeding baby, her having malaria could potentially affect whether or not her baby will have a sufficient amount of nourishment. Unfortunately, it is pregnant women and children under the age of five who are most susceptible to malaria. In addition to all of these reasons, if the person with malaria does not have a net, does not understand how to properly use a net, or does not understand the benefits of doing so, they are putting everyone else in their family at risk for also having malaria. Consequently, many families have several people with malaria simultaneously, which only magnifies the hardships that family must face.
Djibi is the village level health extension agent in a village of 779 people, called Sare Coly Salle. Working most often as an unpaid volunteer, he cares for the many patients who come through the Sare Coly Salle Health Post. He spends his days dressing wounds, vaccinating children, and giving injections. Djibi also serves the role of health educator. He utilizes every resource and training available to him to make himself as competent as he can be in preventive health education for a variety of diseases, primarily malaria. Striving to be a part of every aspect of the PNLP (Programme National Lutte contre le Paludisme- The National Malaria Control Program), he has been trained in and actively participates in Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS), the use of RDTs, the administration of ACTs, and encouraging pregnant women to come in for their quarterly prenatal consultations so they can receive the two doses of Intermittent Prophylactic Treatment, specifically for pregnant women (IPTp). As an example, this past June and July, he traveled from house to house in each of the satellite villages feeding into the Sare Coly Salle Health Post to educate the families about IRS and its benefits. He sprayed the inside of each room with a sleeping space, because after a mosquito bites someone, it needs to rest to digest its food. The type of mosquito that carries malaria typically likes to rest on a nearby wall. However, if there is insecticide there, the mosquito will die when digesting its food and no longer be able to pass malaria on to anyone else. Through his own initiative, Djibi also did home-visits at the beginning of the rainy season to remind everyone to hang up and start sleeping under their nets again. He also eagerly participated in and co-lead several events with the local Peace Corps Volunteer stationed in the village, including, but not exclusive to, following up on the 2010 mosquito net distribution he participated in by educating everyone on the importance of net repair and care, assisting in repairing and washing their three-year old nets, taking pictures of everyone next to their nets (to increase pride about net usage in the community), and educating everyone on how they can acquire new nets through the new redistribution campaign.
Through his tireless efforts, the people of Sare Coly Salle have a fighting chance to prevent and treat the hundreds of cases of malaria that come to the health post every year. More mothers will be able to care for their children, more families will have enough food to sufficiently feed every mouth, and there will be a greater awareness within the community on how to protect their childrenâ€™s futures, which is why Djibi Mballo is a Malaria Hero for his community.