Sorry my blogs have been sporadic recently, I have been on the run for a couple weeks now.
The newest group of future PCVs (they will swear in as Peace Corps Volunteers in August) is here in Namaacha living with host families and doing Pre-Service Training for ten weeks (just like I did almost three years ago). The last week of June was given a malaria focus*, with a session from the Peace Corps Medical Officer (PCMO), a session from the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) resident advisor (who I have been working with this year), and me, the Stomping Out Malaria in Africa team member for Mozambique. The PCMO session would cover a bit of the epidemiology of malaria, but focus primarily on the risk of malaria to them as PCVs and the precautions they should take to avoid getting malaria. The PMI session would focus on what is being done in Mozambique in the fight against malaria by different organizations and the national policies and prevention/treatment strategies. Then my session would give an introduction to the Stomping Out Malaria in Africa initiative, how they could be involved in the initiative, and how they could integrate malaria prevention into their sites and jobs. Since my session was last in the line-up, my plan was to sit in on the other two, so that I could know exactly what the trainees’ knowledge level was. After the PCMO’s session I casually asked who would be doing PMI’s session the following day, since I knew the resident advisor is on leave in the states. I was told, in an equally casually manner, that the PCMO would be filling in to do the session, but that she didn’t want to return to Namaacha (from Maputo) two days in a row, so the session had been switched to a different week. I panicked because my session would make ZERO sense without the trainees having learned the information from the PMI session. Since I attended the Stomp boot camp in February and have since read about every new article (or the abstract, let’s be honest) in malaria research and prevention practice worldwide, I feel fairly comfortable in the subject—so I suggested I give the morning PMI session, in addition to my afternoon session. All this happened at about 3pm the day before these sessions were to happen, and all I had from PMI was the powerpoint that she had planned to use, but none of her notes to go along with it, so I spent the next 8 hours preparing for my surprise session. The great news is that I think both sessions went well and a few trainees approached me afterwards to express their interest in working malaria prevention and ask additional questions about how they could become involved.
*Despite the fact that malaria is the #1 killer in Mozambique, accounting for 29% of deaths, it gets very little attention in comparison to HIV/AIDS. All of the Mozambique Health sector PCVs are funded by PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief), and are thus primarily HIV prevention volunteers. The most recent studies report that the HIV prevalence rate in Mozambique is 11.5%, so it absolutely should receive attention and funding for prevention/treatment activities, my problem is that it often does so at the expense of other health issues, such as malaria (again, the actual #1 killer in Mozambique), nutrition, STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections—during my Pre-Service Training the national prevalence was 79%!), and tuberculosis (which I have been exposed to since being here and one of my PCVs friends who recently closed her service tested positive for).