Written by: PCV Kristopher Mills (Burkina Faso)
April 25 is the International World Malaria Day. World Malaria Day was established and approved at the 60th World Health Assembly (WHA) in March 2007. It replaced Africa Malaria Day, which was commemorated every year since 2001 on 25 April. On World Malaria Day advocates and citizens around the world raise awareness of malaria as a disease that is preventable and treatable and mobilize action to end the ravages of malaria.
Malaria is endemic to all of Burkina Faso but is more severe, with year round transmission rates in the south and southwest region surrounding Leo, the capital of the southern district. Malaria is the leading cause for health facility visits, hospitalizations and deaths in Burkina Faso. Peace Corps and the UNV Program in Burkina partnered for a two day education campaign for this years World Malaria Day.
I choose to make it a two day event to overlap with Leo’s market day which draws the majority of the community surrounding Leo and and ensured the opportunity to reach the most vulnerable population. The objective was to raise awareness and educate the population with high malaria prevalence, with the likely result that malaria would decrease.
Leading up to the event the local radio station made announcements informing the Leo population of the malaria education campaign and also played short malaria awareness radio spots.
During the World Malaria Day event , six stations were set up throughout the market, each offering a different malaria related activity which included: a malaria trivia game, bed net manipulation and beautification examples, bed net washing and care demonstrations, a “what’s wrong with this picture” activity, a visual representation of the annual cost of treating malaria for Yelbouga (a small village on the outskirts of Leo) as well as a short malaria video.
These stations we all tied together by a “World Malaria Day card” to keep track of which stations participants visited. After having visited all stations, participants were presented a sticker that read “Toute la famille, Toutes les nuits, Toutes l’annee” (Every family member, every night, All year). They were instructed to place the sticker next to their beds as a reminder to sleep under their mosquito nets. At the end, participants also signed a Promise Banner promising to sleep under a mosquito net every night. This banner is hanging at the central Leo health clinic and will remain there throughout the raining season which is also the season of highest malaria transmission. The banner serves a a visual representation of the promise the Leo community made to better protect themselves against malaria.
Peace corps volunteers and UN volunteers were supported at each station by a local community health worker. These local community health workers were essential to the project to ensure the malaria messages were effectively articulated as most locals speak local language, Nuni or Moore.
By the end of the two day event more than 1000 community members participated with roughly a third completing all the stations.
World Malaria Day Leo was funded by UNDP and was facilitated by 5 UN volunteers, 11 Peace Corps volunteers and 6 local community health workers. This project was also supported by the Leo Health District and local Leo government.