Peace Corps volunteers are collaborating with host country government agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), and local community members to raise awareness of malaria prevention techniques and help control the disease.
Malaria is an infectious disease caused by a parasite (plasmodium) transmitted from human to human by the bite of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Young children, pregnant women, and people living with HIV/AIDS have the highest risk for malaria morbidity and mortality. The World Health Organization states that, in 2008, there were 247 million cases of malaria and nearly one million deaths, mostly among children living in Africa.
Peace Corps volunteers are working to mitigate malaria’s devastating impact. Volunteers play a key role in grassroots education and activities that improve community-based knowledge about malaria transmission and promote behavior changes to reduce the spread of the disease.
In addition to their primary service assignments, all Peace Corps volunteers in Benin and Senegal are encouraged to work in malaria-prevention efforts. This year, volunteers have partnered with host-country agencies and NGOs to distribute over 110,000 mosquito nets.
In Senegal, Peace Corps is delivering bed nets to remote villages and conducting malaria lessons with community members before distribution. Volunteers aim to provide a mosquito net for every bed in areas with high malaria rates and are conducting post-distribution evaluations with local health workers to verify that the nets are being properly used.
Peace Corps volunteers in Benin are working closely with PMI cooperating agencies to facilitate the wholesale purchase of mosquito nets from the private sector to sell at a subsidized price to community health centers and individual families. These nets are often distributed during pre-natal consultations and vaccination campaigns.
African nations are not the only ones that have to deal with malaria. In Ecuador, Peace Corps volunteer Kristen Mallory of Cincinnati, Ohio, has taken a hands-on approach with the Ecuadorian Ministry of Public Health to combat malaria and Dengue Fever. Mallory distributed chemicals that kill mosquito larva in water tanks to rural communities and educated locals about malaria prevention and how to destroy mosquito breeding grounds.
April 25th was World Malaria Day, a unified commemoration of the global effort to provide effective control of malaria around the world.
As Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary, its service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world with 7,671 volunteers serving in 76 host countries. Historically, nearly 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.