Alepe, Côte d’Ivoire
A man stopped me on the road today and asked me a very simple question, “C’est gratuit?” Is it free? He was referring to the children’s health campaign that was taking place behind us at the market in the center of Monga, Côte d’Ivoire, a small village over an hour from Abidjan. More than a hundred mothers and fathers, even brothers and sisters, stood in a line holding small children, either by the hand or on their backs, waiting patiently for their turn.
The line of women and children snaked around the market. While I had only just arrived around 3:00 p.m. from another distribution site, it was clear that many of those in the line had been waiting for some time. Monga was quite an organized distribution site. With ample space, the community health care workers and volunteers were able to spread out to fill out the pink child health cards, give the Vitamin A and de-worming medicine, administer the measles vaccine and distribute a long-lasting insecticide-treated bed net. A rope managed to keep people from crowding the tables and there was even a blue bed net hung over a double mattress to show everyone how best to hang a bed net (and just how big it is).
“Oui, c’est gratiut,” I assured the man, it is free. “Only today,” he continued? I confirmed for him that the free vaccines and bed nets would be distributed over the course of the next 5 days – from today to Saturday. He seemed pleased with my answer and continued on his way.
Today marked the launch of the first-ever national integrated health campaign (integrating life-saving bed nets) in Côte d’Ivoire. Tens of thousands of nets were distributed across Côte d’Ivoire today. Tomorrow may be even bigger, as more and more people will learn about the campaign, perhaps via television or perhaps simply by stopping someone on the street and asking, c’est gratuit?