Saturday, September 29, 2012

In Ghana

Sorry, I 've been a little out of communication.  First, I sold my laptop...that's pretty weird so it is a little difficult to get online and two, Chelsie and I went to Green Turtle Lodge for a couple days which is a very inexpensive beach resort that gives discounts to Peace Corps volunteers.  Besides that we have been roaming around Accra, Ghana eating and watching movies...essentially preparing for life in America.  Our flight is October 1st at 4am so I'll try and write a longer entry, but I can't promise I'll be able.  The only exciting thing that is really happened thus far is a little miscommunication between us and the Peace Corp volunteers that are coming to run in the Ghana marathon Sunday.  We asked them to bring Potato, the cat and the luggage...they only brought Potato so Chelsie is right now over in Togo getting our bags!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Unemployed and Leaving!

I'm unemployed and officially a RPCV!!!  I'm sorry that this post will be real short as in a few minutes I'm heading over to Ghana for a little over a week vacation!  I'll post when I get some internet there!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Last Day as a Peace Corps Volunteer

     Well, this is it!  Last day that I'll be a Peace Corps volunteer.  Pretty strange.  Tomorrow, September 19th, I will be finalizing my COS (Close of Service).  There are still a few more things I need to get cleared for such as the return of books that are the property of Peace Corps, my bicycicle, etc.  So hopefully by the afternoon, I'll be finished and COSed!  It is pretty strange thinking that such an important part of my life is coming to a close.  However, because I have so much stuff to do I'm not really thinking of it as much.  I think that by Friday I should be finished with everything and then off to Ghana for a week before coming home.  I kind of regret not coming home right away, but Ghana will be a nice break from all this craziness here and a nice easing into America.  Chelsie and I were planning on going to Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), but some PCVs that just COSed went there and they said that it would be fun if it wasn't so expensive so we nixed that.  Also there have been some attacks/bombings but all have been on government/military buildings.  We were also planning to see some more of Togo, but I'm ready to move on.

     Here's a little recap of what I've been up too these past few days.  I've been slowlying getting rid of things in my house.  The furniture, I'm selling them off little by little which is good. I'll be able to get a little bit of the money I put into all of it.  Fritz, the director of Plan Togo invited me to his house again for burgers and I brought Chelsie.  That was pretty delicious.  I gave him some traditional cloth so he can make some shirts or something out of it.  It is really shiny! Also some cashews from the cashew factory in Tchamba where Chelsie was posted.  Also the cloth came from Tchamba because, for some reason, there is a lot shiny cloth there.  By shiny cloth I mean that there is like gold foil in designs on the fabric.  He really liked it and was very thankful.  I think I already explained about him that he was a Peace Corps volunteer in the 70s in the Dominican Republic.  He re-upped for another 2 years in the Dominican Republic so he spent a total of 4 years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Then after Peace Corps he came home to the US for a few months, started working and after a few months came right back to the Domician Republic to work for Plan.  He has been with Plan ever since.  That was really fun.

     Yesterday, Monday September 17th, was a crazy day.  Jean-Claude, a work partner of mine in Adjengre threw a small party for me and Chelsie in Tsevie.  I think I've talked about him before, he was the driving force behind the library at the local high school in Adjengre.  He also was my French tutor in the beginning of my service in Adjengre and a good friend, even if he is kind of blunt.  However, here especially that is a breath of fresh air.  People, I don't like to make platitudes, but they never talk directly to you when they have a problem with you.  Instead the protocle is going though some type of intermediary or simply alluding to the problem with many metaphors which is especially hard when French is not your first language and you've learned it here on the job.  He is a really good English teacher as well and so I nominated him for an American Embassy program where he would go to the States and learn about America and better ways to teach English in school.  He won the nomination and went with around 20 other teachers from around the world to America for a month and half.  It was a great program and he learned so much.  I really wish I was in America so I could have seen his reactions.  The farthest he travelled in Togo was to Ghana and that was one time.

     So, Jean-Claude invited Chelsie and I to Tsevie, the village where I spent my first 3 months in Togo, living with a host family (surname Afatchao), learning French and learning about Togo from Peace Corps.  Jean-Claude's son and girlfriend live in Tsevie with the girlfriend's family while Jean-Claude works in Adjengre about a 4 hour taxi ride from Tsevie.   Tsevie is only 45 minutes from Lome.  So Chelsie and I went up to Tsevie for this small party that he had for us.  It wasn't really a party, a party here in Togo means drinking alcohol and eating some food with meat as meat is expensive here.  We ate Jen-kumé (sp?) which translates to Pâte Rouge in French which translates to Red Pasta in English, which actually isn't pasta at all it is more like a paste, normally made with corn flour.  But, what makes Pâte Rouge different from the normal Pâte is that the corn flour is fried first with tomatoes and then after you add the hot water.  In normal Pâte one just adds hot water to the corn flour.  So we ate Pâte Rouge, chicken and drank sodabi.  It was a real Togolese fête (party).  Earlier, last week, he gave me a traditional Togolese, I guess you could call it a suit.  My friends and family will see is hard to explain but it is woven cloth and almost like a big pancho with pants.  It is what village chiefs wear, but is acceptable at really fancy occasions here in Togo.

     After the party, I rushed from Tsevie back to Lome because of the presentation of the mosquito net evaluation project that I was going to do to the Minister of Health himself and other heads of state.  The meeting was moved forward to Monday instead of having it on Thursday, later on in the week.  That was pretty nerve-wracking, as I just heard about it that Monday, yesterday.  So once I got back from Tsevie I quickly created a presentation in French and practiced a little. (I was planning on working on the presentation for a few days before the date we would present it) At 4pm myself, Liz and Ismael, the Peace Corps health apcd (Associate Peace Corps Director - the head of the health volunteers in Togo) went to the meeting and it turned out that we didn't present the evaluation.  Instead it was a press conference for the minister of health.  However, we were on TV as there were a ton of cameras in the room and the Minister of Health thanked us personally for all our hard work on the project and really just heaped praises on us so that was nice.  The press-conference was for the new initiative that the ministry of health is implementing which is free testing and treatment of malaria no matter what your age forever.  This is just amazing...this kind of stuff never happens and especially forever it is hard to believe.  I hope it works.  It will be funded by the Global Fund.  The reason why they moved the "meeting" was that Thursday women in Togo are going on a sex-strike.  Which means that women all around Togo will refuse to have sex with their husbands or boyfriends until certain things change in the country.  I'm not sure exactly what it is for but I've heard from other PCVs that this has been done in other African countries and has achieved some success.  We will see what happens!

     Finally, my host brother Arsene Afatchao, who was part of my host family in Tsevie and who now lives in Lome just had a baby boy a few days ago!  I will be celebrating with him soon.  I bought cheap "champagne" (sparkling white wine) so it will be a party!  I doubt he has ever tasted any kind of champagne because even though it is cheap ($8) for us it is really, really expensive for people here in Togo...and for me actually with a salary of $290 a month so I hope he'll enjoy it.  I know he will.  Ok well that's it.  I'll post again once I am no longer a strange.

Monday, September 10, 2012

9 Days Till COS

9 days still I COS (Close of Service)! I can’t believe it. Now this doesn’t mean I’m leaving Togo on September 19th. I’ll still be in Togo till the morning of the 22nd. Chelsie is COSing on the 21st and we are planning on heading to Ghana for a week before returning home to the States on October 2nd. I still have a number of things to finish before I go though. Just to give a little update:

1. Contact Directory Project – have to train Peace Corps staff in using this contact directory I made that makes it really easy to sort and filter the contacts of PCVs and staff. Also what makes it good is that you can automatically import all the contacts into your Gmail or Outlook which is really nice.

2. Upload all Grant Proposals and Completion Reports to our Google Drive folder – we have 3 years of past grants proposals and reports that no one has easy access to. I’ve been renaming them and organizing them. Almost done.

3. Togolese cookbook in French – Last year I wrote a cookbook with another volunteer, using recipes from the cookbook that we have in English called: Where There is No Whopper (it was started by volunteers in Togo and slowly added to little by little over the years), we translated some recipes into French. Our cookbook called Les Cadeaux du Terre (The Gifts of the Ground) shows cheap food that can be made and the countries that the food comes from. Here in Togo people don’t experiment with food, but in general people are interested in trying new foods.

4. Description of Service (DOS)– a document that every volunteer has to fill out describing in two to three pages what you have done during your service. It is the only real record of what you have done during your service.

5. Signatures, signatures, signatures – we have a list of like 10 signatures from Peace Corps staff we need to get in order to be allowed to leave.

6. Final medical checkup.

7. Presentation in French of the mosquito net evaluation project.

8. Submitting the mosquito net evaluation project receipts and completion report.

9. Saying goodbye to friends here – there’s a few people that I need to say goodbye to.

It is pretty strange being here for so long and finally it is coming to an end. I feel ready to go home, however I do like it here and the freedom is what I’m going to miss. Later!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Final Project (Updated)

     Exactly 1 month left here in Togo as a Peace Corps volunteer…pretty weird.  I can’t believe it.  Surprisingly I’m not sad about leaving I’m ready to go because I feel accomplished.  Sure I haven’t done everything I wanted to do, but I’ve done enough.  There are still a couple of additional projects that I hope I can accomplish before I leave, but if not I think I’ll be satisfied.  A big reason I feel this way, though, is because of a big project that I’ve been working on, the official name is:
"Rapid Household Evaluation of the 2011 Integrated Campaign LLIN Distribution Component in Togo", which means that it is a national survey of the last mosquito net distribution in 2011 by the non-governmental organization, Plan Togo.  The project mobilized 201 Togolese and Peace Corps volunteers to survey 197 villages and 6,015 households all throughout the country from Maritime to Savanes.  With this survey we ended up counting 35,215 Togolese and 18,805 mosquito nets and finding a wealth of information about mosquito net use.  Here is a little of the history of how I became Project Manager of this national project.

     After I came back from the malaria conference in Senegal, Stomp Out Malaria, I created a malaria committee here with the PCVs here in Togo.  I first called it the Malaria Coordinating Committee, but I didn’t think it was catchy enough so I changed it to the Malaria Action Committee or MAC.  Volunteers applied to become part of MAC and my plan was to have 2 volunteers per region to provide on the ground support to the PCVs doing malaria activities.

Side note: There now are “6” regions here in Togo because they recently split up Maritime into Lomé Commune and Maritime.  To break it down for you, in order from South to North, we have Lomé Commune, Maritime, Plateaux, Centrale, Kara and Savanes.  I still, however, refer to Togo as only having only 5 regions because other Togolese refer to Togo as only have 5 regions...sorry, it's a little confusing, changes take awhile to take affect here.

I felt that the first thing we should do is get an understanding of the malaria status here in Togo.  The data that is available on malaria is meager at best and the data that is available I find very untrustworthy knowing how Togolese health workers do surveys here.  In addition to announcing that we would be accepting applications for MAC, at Mid-Service Conference (MSC is 4 days of technical and administrative training, just to keep PCVs who have been in Togo for 1 year up-to-date with policies and have PCVs come back and discuss within their sector of how projects went), at the same time I also asked people to complete a survey I had designed.  I later presented about malaria, MAC and the survey to the new PCVs who had just gotten into the country at their Pre-Service Training (PST).

     The survey was twofold, 1. Figure out what really is the malaria situation in Togo. 2. Create a baseline survey of bed net use and malaria knowledge so that volunteers know what they can focus on when they do trainings and activities in regard to malaria.  I’ll admit that it pretty much failed.  1. The timing was terrible.  It was during the holidays (American holidays) and a lot of volunteers were travelling.  2. The survey questions were not specific enough.  3. There was no survey training.  I just stood up in front of everyone and said this is how it should be done, but no practice.  This problem could have been mitigated somewhat, though, if there was a survey kit with very clear instructions and all the materials for the survey.  I did send an email with directions but nothing was printed out.  4. Saying that the survey was mandatory I think backfired somewhat as well.  Some volunteers didn’t like hearing that and didn't do it.  However, on the plus side, the people who who were new PCVs found the survey invaluable because it forced them to meet members of their village.  It provided PCVs with a clear and concrete activity that they could easily complete in their first month or so at post.  For this and the fact that I learned how to create an effective survey and provided me with invaluable experience in motivating people.  Yes, it could have been better but I see it as at least I tried something and if anything it got volunteers thinking about malaria and malaria control.

     This set the groundwork for the next survey.  So around the time that I was receiving the baseline malaria surveys, Ismael (the APCD of CHAP: the Associate Peace Corps Director of Community Health Aids Prevention…in other words the boss of the health program for Peace Corps Togo.  He went with me to the Senegal malaria conference) and I chose members of MAC and nearly achieved the 2 volunteers per region that I wanted.  MAC had its first meeting and we spent all day from 7:30am to 8 or 9pm at night taking only brief breaks for lunch and dinner and then again in the morning we spent 3 hours finalizing everything.  We came up with our mission, goals and objectives of the committee and everyone's roles and responsibilities in MAC.  It was going great and we were revising the botched survey as well, writing up a budget and creating a survey kit.  We were going to apply for a grant to create a survey kit and send it to each volunteer and that’s when a couple things  happened at once.

     First, around February 2012, Peace Corps Togo was called in to a meeting with all the top humanitarian aid organizations here in Togo, World Health Organization, PLAN, Red Cross, UNICEF, National Malaria Control Program (in French PNLP), and the Ministry of Health of Togo (PNLP is kind of under the Ministry of Health as well).  They announced that they would like us, Peace Corps Togo, to do a nationwide evaluation of the outcome of the last mosquito net distribution that PLAN had executed using Global Fund money.  The distribution was to achieve the goal universal coverage of mosquitoes with the ratio of 1 net per 1.8 people and it cost millions and millions of dollars.  They needed an independent evaluator and would fund the entire survey.  All we had to do is come up with a budget, Terms of Reference and present it to them.  I was excited.  If we executed the survey well and showed that we could be depended upon for such a large scale project who knows what kinds of doors this could open for Peace Corps Togo.  It was the first time that this had ever happened for Peace Corps Togo, that these aid organizations enlisted our help for evaluating a project and such a large project at that.  Immediately I started designing a survey with input from the other members of MAC and Stomp Out Malaria admin people.  Then, I got into a moto accident that had me recuperating for a couple weeks so that slowed down progress.  In addition, there was no update from the aid organizations.  They didn't give us any indicators to look for or even questions to ask on the survey, we were left in the dark and it was pretty frustrating.  So after I got a little better we sent in an example survey.  That started the ball rolling a little a faster and they sent back the start of a Terms of Reference listing their desired indicators.

     It was around this time that I moved down to Lomé and started working in Plan as Project Manager of this bed net evaluation project.  It turned out that Plan Togo was the recipient of the Global Fund money and they were the ones who actually executed the mosquito net distribution.  This I didn't know for an embarrassingly long period of time.  I thought it was WHO because they were the organization during the preliminary meeting that did most of the talking and asked us to do the evaluation.  Plan, WHO and UNICEF were the ones who funded the evaluation.  In addition, Plan set me up with an office and a work laptop to use at their Lome office.  It is a really nice place with air conditioning and an awesome bathroom…you really come to appreciate these things in Togo.  Also everyone loves their work here, that's the best part.  You don't really see that very often in Togo, except in Peace Corps.  It’s awesome.  I’ve also become good friends with the director.  He is actually a previous Peace Corps volunteer who served in the Dominican Republic during the 70s so it has been really fun getting to know him.  I hope that Peace Corps volunteers can continue to work for Plan in some capacity as I think it is a great working environment.

     So over the course of a few months, myself and with two other PCVs, Liz and Abby, we revised and presented then revised and presented again the Terms of Reference, survey and budget.  I have to admit it was pretty frustrating because we had very little guidance.  Earlier on we should have been more demanding about what indicators they wanted and the structure of the survey, but we waited for them to tell us what they wanted.  However, everything turned out ok in the end although it did feel pretty rushed. We were also very conscious of the budget and in retrospect spent a lot more time than we should have.  We are in the Peace Corps mindset and Peace Corps doesn’t nearly have the budget that these aid organizations have. It was an interesting insight into the world of large scale development projects in Togo.  I really appreciated the opportunity that was afforded to us. 

     It was also awesome to have Liz and Abby on my team.  Abby gave me her expert French abilities and Liz her health statistic abilities.  Both have a background in health and are currently going for a MPH through a program called Master International where they get some of their university requirements filled by doing Peace Corps.  Pretty cool.  I literally wouldn't have been able to do it without them.  It has been a lot of work and is still continuing.  It was really essential working for Plan while doing this project as it made just logistics so much easier.  They have done these kinds of huge, nationwide projects before and have supply chains already in place such as t-shirt makers, printers, etc.  Also when I needed information about the distribution I was already there and could ask them about.  It was an independent evaluation so they couldn't help me do the actual work, however it is a shame it took me awhile to get down to Lomé because I started working for Plan after we already wrote our Terms of Reference and did our budget and their advice on prices would have made things go a little smoother I think.  Still, it all went really well.

     So in a nutshell this is what the project entailed.  As I mentioned before, the main objective of this project is to find the effectiveness of the last bed net distribution which was executed in 2011.  We developed a rapid household survey in order to keep project expenses down and quickly get the results of the survey.  We asked for around $23,000.  With that money we chose Peace Corps volunteers in each region to attend a 1 day training in their region along with 2 or 3 host country nationals who would help in this survey.  The training consisted of learning about the importance of a survey, the importance of correct results and how to do our survey correctly.  We also gave everyone a survey kit contained in an 80 page manual that had instructions, explanations, visual aids and the survey already printed out for each household.  In addition we gave each person a colored shirt and vest to distinguish themselves from everyone else and professionalize the surveying.  The Peace Corps volunteer was the one in charge of submitting the results of the survey electronically using a data input program that I wrote in Microsoft  Excel that made it easy to input the the survey data. The program opened up a userform where people would input the survey data of one household after another.  Abby, Liz and I unfortunately did have to do a number of them ourselves because it wouldn't run on macs or even certain windows computers, but only 20% of surveys. 

     Each person who attended the training was in charge of surveying one village, this included the PCV.  We required that for the first village everyone would go together and the volunteer would be the one to do the survey.  Then two HCNs would go to the next village and then after that two people would go to the next and so on.  Each team of 3 (including a PCV) would be responsible for surveying 3 villages, teams of 4 would survey 4 villages and so on.  The reason for the different size of teams was based on the amount of volunteers in that region and the population of that region. Abby and Liz chose the villages that were surveyed.  They made the survey sites as random as they could including small to large villages in the sites.  Each survey consisted of 30 households and took on average 7 to 10 hours to complete.

     All the trainings went along without a hitch which we were thankful for, but there were always things to improve upon and I believe primarily because we had less than a month to execute a national project.  We didn’t get the funding till a month before all these training were supposed to happen and literally 3 days before our first training which trained the Togolese in each region who were doing the training.  This coupled with transportation and just organizing things quickly in Togo while culturally it is so laid back here being and French not being our first language and it not the first language of the majority of Togolese it was pretty amazing that we were able to pull this off.  We weren’t able to push back the project till later because not only would it be when volunteers were COSing and new volunteers were coming in, it also would put the surveying to be executed during the heart of rainy season, making it difficult to travel and do the work.

     Overall, everything turned out great.  We had a 100% of volunteers who we asked to particpate in the survey completed the survey which was pretty awesome.  We have compiled the results now and while Plan did not achieve the 1 net to 1.8 people ratio then needed to accomplish the goal of universal coverage they did do an amazing distribution and the knowledge of what bed nets are used for and the importance of bed nets is 90.9%.  I will try to add a link later to the stats and the paper if I can.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New House in Lomé!

I actually moved to Lomé!  …in May actually, but it took a while for Peace Corps to find me an adequate place.  I’m pretty lucky actually because my place is literally a 30 second walk from the Peace Corps office in Lomé.  Lomé is the capital of Togo located on the ocean and on the border of Ghana.  I am about a 10 minute walk from the ocean and a 25 minute walk from Ghana.  Technically I have beach front property!    However, before anyone gets jealous the beach is not very fun.  The riptides are so bad you can’t even swim in it and there is absolutely no regulation so there are a few crazies that roam around and various other unsavory characters with whom I would rather not come in contact.  It is safe around where I live though.  Anyway, I took pictures of moving out of Adjengré and my house in Lomé as of just a few days ago.  To view the photos just click on the album link below:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

What I Have Been Working On

        The problems that plague Togo are numerous and overwhelming for volunteers.  I chose for my first 2 years in service to focus on projects that I was interested in and had a lot of community support but were not necessarily in my particular program, Small Enterprise Development (SED).  For example I worked with a small village close-by called Tembio.  In this village I talked to the chief and he asked me if I could help them in some way.  This is a normal request, but what really made me want to work with him was that he didn’t ask for money he asked for education and training.  Unfortunately I didn’t know quite what to do because I’m not a NRM Peace Corp volunteer (NRM is Natural Resource Management which is the sector that deals with agriculture like better farming techniques, etc.  Now the sector has changed its name to EAFS: Energy and Food Security) so I said, “well I don’t know, maybe you can plant different things than what you are currently growing.  You can start a garden with carrots, beets, green peppers, etc.” To my surprise they seized enthusiastically on the idea.  I bought the seeds though because I felt that I would hate myself if the village saved money, bought the seeds and they couldn’t grow it or worse, they couldn’t sell the produce.   So I spent around 2,000CFA about $4 and bought them tons of seeds.  They immediately planted the seeds and did all the work themselves.  I checked in once, a few months later and everything was growing well.  Many months passed and I hadn’t had the opportunity to go out and see the village because of other responsibilities.  Finally I did and they asked me where I had been because they sold everything.  I was shocked.  I was even more shocked when they said that they saved all the money and was waiting for me to come back to show me.  They had around 45000CFA, $90 and this was all profit (well, minus the seeds).  On top of this they sold the vegetables to my village, Adjengré therefore increasing the access to nutrition for the people in my town where, normally, there is only onions, tomatoes, okra and something that tastes like spinach, but isn’t.  I was very happy.

        Besides the village garden there were numerous other projects I did such as an English Summer Class for 2 hours every day and teaching girls who are involved in a groupement (the translation is group, but here it means more of a co-op where each person works and puts in some money and then the group shares the profits) that has a small farm of ginger or makes baskets, money management techniques for their business.  Towards the end of my first year I also became an editor on Farm to Market for a year.  Farm to Market is a magazine that Peace Corps volunteers from Togo produce.  The articles are written by Peace Corps volunteers and help Peace Corps volunteers all over West Africa by giving them ideas of projects and information that they can use in their work.  The magazine covers topics that are both SED and NRM related.  It is read by a lot Peace Corps countries, mostly in West Africa.

        Towards the end of my second year I was gradually doing more and more work specifically for the Peace Corps Togo office in the capital, Lomé, like organizing our resource center into Dewey Decimal, entering books into the library management system, and creating an offline database of the resources available so volunteers would be able to search what resources are available and request resources while they are in their village, not the capital where the resource center is located.  In order for the database to be updated the librarian has to send out an update over email.  Still even that is difficult here because of the lack of available internet and even when you do have internet it is shotty at best.  I also have worked on a better contact directory of Peace Corps volunteers that will soon include staff and made it easy to import directly into your Gmail or Outlook.  Just simple things that make Peace Corps volunteers lives and Peace Corps staff’s run a little more smoothly.

        For my 3rd year I was planning on wrapping up projects in my village and continue work for the office, however fate intervened and my Country Director nominated me for a conference in Senegal on the new Peace Corps Malaria Initiative.  I was planning on turning it down.  I had no background in malaria and thought that other volunteers would benefit more from such a conference.  I was planning this until friends convinced me otherwise.   I’m very glad I went and I understand why she chose me.  I would be a perfect conduit to teach those who had never done any work on malaria being someone who didn’t do any work on the topic myself.  It was in September 7-18 and it was intense.  10 days of practically 7am-9pm crash course on what malaria is, what is happening nowadays with malaria and how to implement the initiative in our respective countries.  There were about 20 people there, representing something like 11 Peace Corps countries.  It was really interesting getting to know those who attended the conference learning about the different Peace Corps cultures in the various countries.  However, what I learned about malaria has stayed with me and fueled the projects that have been consuming most of my life from then until now.

        Malaria kills one child in the world every 30 seconds according to the UN.  90% of malaria deaths are in Sub-Sahara Africa where I am located.  It can kill a child within 2 days of the initial bite of the mosquito giving families not enough to get to the local hospital if the family can even realizes that the child has malaria.  It is a disease that is considered to have been eliminated from the United States in 1951 yet it is endemic in Africa to this day.  It accounts for millions of dollars lost of GDP and millions of dollars of healthcare costs.  As if that isn’t enough according to WHO it is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 5.  The number one reason that little kids die is because they get sick with malaria.  In Togo alone, according to 2009 data from the National Malaria Control Program of Togo, an average of 50% of deaths of infants under the age of 5 were due to malaria.  This is unacceptable and this is what I and now other volunteers are working on combating here in Togo.  When I came back from the conference I started up a new committee called MAC (Malaria Action Committee).  Volunteers applied to become a member of the committee and currently we have 11 members.  We have already been requested by WHO to be the independent evaluator for their latest mosquito net campaign.  This has involved designing a rapid household survey, explaining the survey and indicators, training Peace Corps volunteers and Togolese and creating a system to rapidly compile the data.  We plan on trainings to be held May 15th and the surveying to be done around May 20th.  It is a lot of work, but we are doing.

For those interested in additional in how malaria works watch this really awesome video:

To follow our Malaria Action Committee (MAC) visit: A warning, it has only just begun so we have 2 posts on there and we haven’t put any pictures or made the blog as nice looking as we want it.

To follow the Peace Corps Malaria Initiative called Stomp Out Malaria visit:

        I will be moving down to Lomé this month to finish out my service.  In Lomé, besides malaria work, I’ll be working with WHO and other NGOs in order to develop work opportunities for Peace Corps volunteers who want to do a 3rd year.  Also I’ll be working more in the Peace Corps office.  Improving efficiency and helping automate a lot of tasks with my programming knowledge.  I am sad about leaving Adjengré, I have a lot of friends here and it is very calm here, but I will come back and visit.  I am also excited about the work that I’ll be doing down in Lomé and happy to not to make the 6 hour one-way once or twice a month!