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Get Psyched, World Malaria Day… and Peacing out of Senegal

April 12, 2012

My days in Senegal are running down. Unless I find myself unable to resist the urge to post something up tomorrow or Saturday this will be my last. I’m not going to ramble about what it feels like to leave this place, I have no idea. Instead, I’m pushing an agenda. World Malaria day is April 25th, and to celebrate the volunteers of Peace Corps Senegal are blogging about their thoughts and reflections on Malaria. Here are some of mine:

Development is tricky. Often the ramifications of a project are not particularly well thought out, and even when they are, may not be felt for years after its completion.  I’ve been watching a project come together for most of my service now, which has the capacity to transform the quality of life for the village in which I lived.  The North is easily the most arid part of Senegal. Consequently, you might think that the rate of Malaria would be low, and that opportunities for agriculture would be limited.  Well the former is true. I’ve only seen a couple of cases of Malaria in my time here, and generally they have been transplants, people who have emigrated from Cote d’Ivoire, Dakar, places where Malaria is prevalent.

And yet in this dry swath of land tucked under the Sahara agriculture is blooming. A project funded by the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa next to my village is set to divert some of the nearby Senegal River to irrigate 500 hectares of rice fields. Villages in my region who have undertaken similar projects have seen a dramatic shift upwards in both their income and quality of life.

The downside. To irrigate rice fields of this size you have to flood the area, which means lots of standing water.  My concern with this is that it will become a breeding ground for Anopheles mosquitos (the kind that carry Malaria) and will quickly become a major health problem for people who have very little exposure to the parasite plasmodium falciparum and will therefore be particularly susceptible to Malaria.

This isn’t to say that the project won’t be a net good in the village, I think it will. But as I leave Senegal, these are the knots left untied, the things I can’t help mitigate now, because the problem doesn’t exist yet. I know it can’t be helped, but I do wish I could see the rest of this play out, since I’ve been watching the stage get set for 2 years now.



2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 13, 2012 14:19

    Thanks for taking the time to educate your friends and family about this deadly disease. You’re right that there are many many difficult development challenges – agriculture is certainly one of them. But malaria prevention is an area where we see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Along the river where the rice intesification project is germinating, MACEPA is working to develop an innovative SMS-based rapid response program to quickly identify any new cases of malaria that may come with the agricultural expansion. Check our Chris Ruli’s blog for more details:

    You can move on to your next adventure knowing that there are smart, hardworking volunteers like Chris dedicated to ensuring that malaria will not overrun the village that you love.

    Thank you for your service,
    Matt McLaughlin
    Program Manager
    Peace Corps
    Stomping Out Malaria in Africa

  2. Darius permalink
    April 21, 2012 22:29

    Awesome Reflection, Ev. I’m eager to hear about more of your time in Senegal when you get back to the States. I hope your transition goes well. We both know how much culture shock there is in coming home.


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