Alepe, Côte d’Ivoire
As today is the last day of the national integrated health campaign in Côte d’Ivoire, it seemed fitting for me to head to the same district where I began on Tuesday for the launch of the effort – Alepe. Just four days earlier the town’s two distribution points – one by the Mayor’s office and one across the road for the district hospital – were bustling. Hundreds of women and men stood in line with their children, who received free vaccinations, medicine and bed nets.
But today the small tent across from the district hospital was the only distribution site in town and it seemed a shadow of what it had been. Two community health workers waited patiently for any children who had not participated in the campaign earlier in the week. It seemed everyone here in town had already come.
Almost all the bed nets provided for the Alepe District had been distributed, according to the District Director. We watched the last bales of bed nets be loaded up onto pick up trucks in the morning, headed for the most remote towns and villages. As is true in other parts of the country, the bed nets would need to travel for hours over dirt roads and even by boat across rivers to get to children in the hardest to reach villages. The campaign had gone “mobile”.
And so I set out on foot (one what I am sure was the hottest day of the week) with Dr. Jacques, a local health professional with the district hospital, and Melissa from UMCOR to tour the town of Alepe and see who had received bed nets and, if needed, reiterate important key messages about malaria and the nets. We were welcomed into the homes of strangers. Invited to sit and chat, even stay for lunch. And on several thrilling occasions, allowed to enter rooms to see the bed nets hung!
It was one of the more rewarding sights of the week to see bed nets hanging in homes across Alepe. Of the dozen homes we visited in the morning, only two had not yet hung their nets (the reason given was that the market was sold out of nails). People found any number of ways to hang the nets – with string, nails, cloth. And Alexi took the opportunity to remind the adults in the home that children need to sleep under the bed net every night, that the nets lasted for four to five years, that the bed net will repel and kill mosquitoes and benefit even those not sleeping under it, and that these nets were the best way to prevent malaria.
While the campaign will come to an end today, the work has only just begun. Community health workers and volunteers will be hitting the streets as we did today over the course of the next few weeks, to ensure that those who received nets have hung them and that those most vulnerable – children – are sleeping under the nets.
Lives were saved this week in Côte d’Ivoire. The effort to distribute over 1 million bed nets in Côte d’Ivoire has been a huge success and it could not have been possible without your support – without your willingness to send a net and save a life.
There is more work to be done, but I think we can all celebrate this success as we work together to send more nets and save more lives.