This past winter, PATH’s Malaria Control and Elimination Partnership in Africa (MACEPA) launched a three-year malaria pre-elimination campaign in three of Senegal’s health districts, Linguere, Ranerou, and Kanel. I, as well as other PCVs in the designated regions, was lucky enough to be part of this campaign along with my local counterparts.
MACEPA’s pre-elimination campaign targets areas where rates are low, hoping to effectively reduce rates below 1 case per 1000 people, the threshold for the pre-elimination phase. Due to the fact that malaria isn’t as prevalent in these areas, testing is done during week-long sweeps every three months. During the sweeps, rapid tests are administered to anyone who wishes to receive them, even if they do not show symptoms. This is in hopes of catching early and asymptomatic cases of malaria. Treatment is provided on the spot for positive cases.
Early on the morning of November 11th 2013, health workers and PCVs all met at the Health Post in my village of Kadji in the Linguere district of Senegal. Health workers had already been trained, and mass testing could begin. There were 10 of us total: 1 driver, 7 community health workers, and 2 PCVs. We split into 4 teams, each team was given a backpack containing several hundred rapid malaria tests, malaria medication, and materials to properly document the test and dispose of the used needles.
From there we sped off into the bush, headed for the remote village of Béli Wélé roughly 20km away. Once we arrived in the village, we split up into our 4 teams and began systematically visiting every compound, offering free malaria testing to anyone who wanted it. If we found any positive cases of malaria, we would provide medication and explain when and how to properly take it. After the sweep of Béli Wélé was completed, the teams regrouped and we were driven to the next targeted village.
We completed 3 villages on that first day and I didn’t make it back to the Health Post in Kadji until after the sun had set. The first day the teams tested over 300 people, with only a few testing positive for malaria. That’s how the remainder of the week was spent; arriving early to the post and traveling to villages all over the region and not coming back till nightfall. In total, my team tested 563 people and the group overall tested upwards of 2,000 people.
Since November, the collaboration between Peace Corps Senegal and MACEPA has continued, and 3rd-year PCV Erica Berlin is now based at the MACEPA office in Dakar, dedicated to the continuation of the partnership.