Grand Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire
I may have seen one of the most beautiful distribution sites in all of Côte d’Ivoire today – Mondoukou. The small village of Mondoukou is roughly 10-15km outside of Grand Bassam, a bustling town that was actually at one point the colonial capital of Côte d’Ivoire. Buildings erected in the 19th century still stand in Grand Bassam, long abandoned by the French colonists on account of, none other than, malaria.
But Mondoukou is quite remote from all the activity in Grand Bassam. A town of about 1,000 people, it sits right on the ocean. Fisherman pull in the catch each day, sandy farms sprout cassava and banana trees, and small boys climb up huge palm trees to pluck coconuts. It looks like paradise.
But malaria plagues this area. I met two mothers outside their home as they were preparing dinner this afternoon. Their sons are one and three-years-old respectively and both have had malaria many times already in their short lives. And what do they do when their children get malaria, I asked? The women must find a way to get to the hospital in Grand Bassam, where they pay 10,000 CFA (roughly $20) just to get their children’s blood drawn to diagnose the disease. It is a far way to travel and a significant amount of money to spend several times each year…for each child.
Well today, Day 3 of the national integrated health campaign, the campaign came to Mondoukou. This is part of the “advanced strategy” in which the vaccines, medicines and bed nets are brought from the “fixed sites” – such as hospitals and clinics – to the more remote communities. Bringing it to the people where they are.
We saw the advanced strategy all around Grand Bassam today – in markets, schools and community centers. And from the early morning until the afternoon, these advanced sites were busy with a constant stream of mothers and fathers bringing their children to be vaccinated and receive a bed net.
As I left Mondoukou in the evening, the crowd had dwindled considerably. They had already distributed more than 400 bed nets, which should have nearly fully covered every child under the age of five in the community. In fact, upon taking a walk around the village, each and every child we saw had a blue mark on their pinky, indicating that they had received a vaccination and a bed net.
But the community health workers in Mondoukou planned to stay for several hours longer. As today was the only day the campaign will be in Mondoukou before it moves on to another advanced site, the health workers explained that people from a small, small village over 8km away had heard about the campaign and had brought their children (by foot) to Mondoukou. And as those individuals returned to their village and brought with them bed nets, surely more would follow. The community health workers wanted to be sure that everyone in the area had an opportunity to keep their children safe and healthy. We thanked them for that.