My name is Olivia.
I document my adventures in Madagascar as a Peace Corps Volunteer, with the mission to share culture and empower others through my writing.

“I use my bed net because…”: Goal-setting and malaria prevention lessons in Ambondro

With their cahiers in front of them and their set of red, blue and green pens arranged neatly on their desk, about two dozen 6eme and 5eme level students glanced up at the board.

Three questions were written on the board: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, “Do you have a bed net?” and “Do you use a bed net every night?” From first glance the topics seemed unrelated, but students attending the English Club in Ambondro soon realized, they couldn’t correlate more.

While the South of Madagascar’s malaria prevalence is less than other less dry regions of other areas of the island, such as the East Coast, preventative methods are still important. Malaria is a completely preventable disease and bed nets play a big role in preventing malaria-related deaths. Consistent use of mosquito nets can reduce malaria transmission by up to 90 percent and 44 percent of all-cause mortality among children under five years of age. The use of mosquito nets among pregnant women reduces the rate of malaria infections, fewer premature births and maternal anemia. 

During class, students made the direct correlation between bed net use and leading a healthy, successful life. Students learned new vocabulary to complete the phrase, “ I use a bed net because I want to be…” In order to be happy, strong, successful and smart, we decided that it is imperative that we sleep under a bed night every night.

Five years ago, Peace Corps joined the fight to end malaria through the creation of StompingOut Malaria in Africa initiative. Currently, 3,000 volunteers across 20 African countries are exchanging ideas and working together to help eradicate malaria by 2020.  We’re trying to do this through four malaria prevention and treatment measures: insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor residual sprays, accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment and intermittent preventative treatment of pregnant women. 

While reported malaria cases and deaths through the national monitoring system have shown decreasing trends between 2003 and 2012, malaria was still the fourth leading cause of outpatient consultation. Five percent of all children under the age of five admitted to a hospital were diagnoses with severe malaria. From a nationwide study in 2012, 42 percent of the people surveyed did not use a bed net the night before the interview. 

Fortunately, we got different results in class. Of the two dozen students attending the lesson, 100 percent said they slept under a bed net every night. Working together, we translated the questions and practiced our responses in English. They stood up to share their goals to the class. Answers ranged from priests, to doctors, to teachers, to mothers, all of which require the use of a bed net in order to be accomplished.

We created dream boards, listing three of our personal goals. After, each student presented their goals in the front of the class, working on their pronunciation. Their homework was to hang their goals next to their bed at home and teach their family about the importance of using a bed net in order to accomplish their dreams.





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