|Preparing to be a Malariabuster|
My third year extension placement is with the ResearchTriangle Institute(RTI) out of the North Carolina and funded by the United States President’s Malaria Initiative(PMI). Along with organizing and implementing the IRS campaign in northern Tanzania, RTI collects and evaluates data from the houses sprayed as well as the malaria patient statistics from local village health clinics. This is where I come in! I am part of the data collection team working directly with team leaders from each spray site to ensure data is being submitted correctly and efficiently. We also work with data entry staff to confirm data is typed into computers accurately.Just as it sounds, my job involves a lot of computer work. So after the first few days of this trip, my antsy-ness caused me to casually mention an interest in learning the spraying process first-hand. By the reaction of my Tanzanian coworkers, you would have thought I had suggested creating a project with goats laying eggs instead of chickens! They were shocked I would want to dirty my hands with such a task.
|One of the Site Headquarters|
Well, let’s be honest…..as many volunteers would attest, much of our manual labor work is being ‘allowed’ by our local counterparts to try a task, being laughed at for our ineptness and then being told to rest while they do it correctly. And I do enjoy hamming it up to make them laugh while secretly learning their methods which are effective albeit can use my adjustments at times.So I expected to be taken out to a spray site, spray two or three houses, share a few laughs, raise worker morale and then be done for the day. Nope. This team had a whole different day planned for me. My first suspicion of what was to come occurred when I was given the FULL safety attire: heavy coveralls, rubber boots, rubber gloves, a hardhat with a mask and an industrial-type mouth and nose mask. The outfit was topped off with my own spray tank- the perfect accessory!
I was then introduced to the spray operator with the best English vocabulary. I learned he had been chosen for the coveted position as my caretaker. I was very flattered by how the team wanted to take such good care of me and by how excited he was to be given the position. He made sure I received my equal share of chemical packets and supplies……which I wondered why I needed since I would only be spraying a few houses as a source of entertainment but I just went with it.
|Repairing Drainage to Protect Surrounding Environment|
But the villagers….oh the villagers….are what make hard work all worthwhile. At this point, I had been out of the village and living the sweet city life for more than seven months. I am not sure how to explain it. A year ago, I would not have believed it. But there is something so much more gratifying from spending a day in a village over a city. Some villagers had already heard about IRS through community outreach and radio spots. Others knew nothing about IRS but were interested in learning and protecting their families. There were a few skeptical villagers who preferred not to have their homes sprayed. One even claimed we were spraying malaria into the homes to kill villagers. My partner handled all situations with dignified calmness and appropriate responses.One of the most common questions Tanzanians ask foreigners is ‘are you tired?’ This is one question I usually reply with an emphatic ‘NO’ whether it is the correct answer or not. I guess because I personally see being tired as a sign of weakness in these situations. By the end of my spraying venture, I was ready to change my answer to an emphatic ‘YES’! When various people asked, I quickly agreed the work of a spray operator is very hard and explained how much respect I have for them.
|Coworker Showsoff New Tent-like Net|
The improved statistics are the combined results of PMI’s four major malaria prevention and treatment measures:
• Indoor residual spraying (IRS)
• Intermittent preventive treatment for pregnantwomen (IPTp) with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP)
• Diagnosis with rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs)or microscopy and treatment with artemisinin-based combination therapy (AC T)
|Fellow PCV Jessica Moreno Teaching about Malaria|
No, the reward is what you are able to take away at the end of the day: the interaction with students excited to practice their English with an American; the laughter shared between sprayers as they competed for how many houses each could spray; the appreciative smiles from villagers seeing support from a foreigner. These are the rewards that will stay with me past the day when malaria is finally eradicated.