World Malaria Day: Alumna Combats Malaria in Mozambique
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 19:04
On World Malaria Day (WMD) this April 25, more than 3,000 Peace Corps volunteers took part in the Stomping Out Malaria in Africa initiative. Alissa Ortman ’10 is one of these volunteers in Mozambique.
“Working on malaria prevention is important, first and foremost, to save lives,” said Ortman. “The week after I arrived at my site here in Northern Mozambique, a little five year-old girl who lived next to me got malaria and died. It was so tragic hearing and seeing what her family had to go through firsthand and it is something I will never, ever forget.”
According to the World Health Organization, there were 247 million cases of malaria in 2008, resulting in nearly one million deaths – most of which occurred among children in Africa. The initiative began on WMD in 2011 in order to combat the high number of deaths.
Their tactics are mainly preventative and educational. The main goal aims for bed net coverage in all Peace Corps Volunteer communities in Africa by 2013. Other goals include establishing prevention and treatment education programs in their communities.
The initiative seeks to reduce deaths from malaria globally by 50 percent or more by 2020, focusing specifically on the 22 African countries in which Peace Corps volunteers work.
Last year’s volunteers attended a “boot camp” in February in Senegal, where they learned strategies and practices in malaria prevention, treatment and intervention campaigns.
“We’re learning from volunteers who have already gone through this training – what they’ve done right and wrong – and that makes it a much more effective training for us,” said volunteer Daniel Allen, who attended the boot camp last year.
Ortman, a neuroscience major and chemistry minor from Westerville, Ohio, has been volunteering with the Peace Corps in Mozambique since September of 2010. After graduating from Smith, she interned in Washington, D.C. She later joined the Peace Corps, where she was assigned to work in Angoche, Mozambique. Much of her work has focused on teaching children in the community and malaria prevention.
One of the projects Ortman has been involved with is a mural about malaria on the main road in Angoche. “The mural uses only pictures, no words,” Ortman said, explaining that many local dialects are spoken and some are illiterate. “The mural depicts the causes of malaria, the problems it provokes and the solutions and ideas for prevention.”
Ortman and other volunteers have taught families about insecticide-treated bed nets and educated expectant mothers about preventative practices in order to insure healthy births.
Ortman will be in the United States on World Malaria Day, posting to her blog in order to raise awareness, as well as organizing events in her local community.
“Despite the fact that malaria is still a huge problem around the world it’s easy for people in countries like the United States to forget about it and all the destruction of life it causes,” she said.
“If even one death…can be prevented, our efforts will be worth it,” Ortman said.
More information about Ortman’s experiences can be found at www.allissapcvmozambique.blogspot.com. For more information on the Stomping out Malaria in Africa initiative, visit www.stompoutmalaria.org.