Go Pinis

Go Pinis

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Health Summit Day Two

Ok, straight into it on Day Two with group work on challenges we face in preventing and treating common illnesses in Bougainville. This morning began with four discussion groups on malaria, pneumonia, tuberculosis and diarrhoea. Again, great engagement from participants on the issues and good ideas on the way forward.

I'd like to share an example that is a classic for development practitioners. Malaria is the leading cause of morbidity and the second most common cause of mortality here. So, many suffer and we need to focus on preventative measures.

There are several measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of malaria. Firstly, the local environment. Water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and they like long grass, so build homes a fair distance from fresh water and clear the bush from around your house. Secondly, the type of mosquito infected with malaria bites at night, so put mosquito netting on your doors and windows and put treated mosquito nets around your bed (chemically treated nets kill mosquitoes). Thirdly, stay indoors at night as much as is reasonable. Fourthly, take a preventative medicine such as doxycyclene so your immune system is able to defend you, should you get bitten.

Governments and their development partners (the latest jargon which tries to capture donors, NGOs, churches, community group etc) like to target funds on distributing mosquito nets. A good idea, as you can't really buy them here and not everyone could if they were available. However, the trick is getting them to use them. The group discussion on malaria raised the following:

  • People are using their mosquito nets for shredding of cocoa seedlings
  • People are using their mosquito nets for fishing
  • People simply aren't using them

Simply providing the solution is not enough. As participants noted, the community has to have some ownership over the solution. This means that you need to help them see the value in having mosquito nets, and communities must desire to have them for the purpose they were designed for. Now, I can't really say that this is why we are having the problem, but that's the impression I'm getting here at the Summit, which means more time needs to be spent with the communities to get them to the point where they are identifying and asking for the solutions, instead of having them randomly handed out by Santa Claus. The lessons continue…

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