Azuretti Visit

Azuretti VisitAs many non-profit organizations know very well, providing needed resources to alleviate specific problems in third-world countries is hardly a guarantee to solving them. Promoting local ownership of the effort is key to ensuring sustainability and, hence, success. So, it was with hopeful trepidation that I set out to visit Azuretti, one of ICMRT mosquito net-recipient villages. My family was on vacation in the Ivory Coast early last summer, and I decided to cap it with a quick visit to the coastal village, only 35 miles from where we stayed. Are the villagers still using their long lasting mosquito nets 8 Azuretti Visitmonths after their free distribution? Are community health workers, trained by ICMRT and CEMV, its local partner, still engaged in ensuring that villagers use their nets and destroy mosquito breeding grounds, and still committed to referring malaria cases to hospitals? These were some of the questions I had.

A team consisting of myself, Dr. Tia, the CEMV’s project coordinator, his two technicians, and Vincent Koffi, the ICMRT representative in Ivory Coast arrived in Azuretti around 10:00 am on July 21. The day was sunny and clear. However, the main road through the village was relatively empty and quiet. The quiet was broken only by the sound of waves from the Atlantic Ocean crashing on the beach. Our van stopped for a young man in his 20s waving at us. He was introduced to me as Emmanuel. Emmanuel is one of two community health workers trained to ensure the sustainability of our malaria prevention effort in Azuretti. He would host and guide us as we visited local dignitaries and homes.

The village chief was absent, so Emmanuel took us to his counsel for youth affairs to share the purpose of our visit. As we would learn, the ocean is the quietest it’s been in many weeks, so most village men were out in their fishing boats.   

Following the ceremonial sharing of news, we set to visit individual family house-compounds. It was quickly apparent that Emmanuel was very well known and well liked by everyone. Passer-bys would also recognize Dr-Tia, his team and the ICMRT representative and smile broadly. Once in the house compounds, Emmanuel would quickly let the women of the house know who I was in N’zima, the local language, and the reaction would be the same. They would profusely shower me and the team with thank yous, share stories about how the nets changed their lives, and quickly invite us to see the nets in the bedrooms. The nets appeared to be well maintained. I was on a time schedule, so we visited only visit three types of houses: a brick house, a wood board house and a bamboo house.

It struck me after visiting the first two houses that they might be uncomfortable at night because of the hot weather. In the last compound we visited, there were two nets attached to an open thatched roof shelter in addition to two inside the main house. When asked about the possible discomfort some may feel in sleeping in bedrooms at night, Azuretti VisitEmmanuel smiled quietly and invited us to the beach where he and a young mother attached one net to four wood posts and invited me to lie under it to see for myself how they protect themselves on warm evenings. I did. And as I lay there under the hot sun, I realized could not have hoped for better display of proud ownership of the mosquito net. I also realized the great difference people like Emmanuel can make in their communities.

ICMRT’s next project is to provide community health workers like Emmanuel malaria diagnostic kits to help them identify drug resistant malaria infections, so they may quickly refer the sick to hospitals for treatment and prevent deaths. Please join us on November 7 during our fundraising gala when we ask for your help in making this happen this year.

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