The community of Thiénaba, 180 km from Dakar, Senegal’s capital city, has not had a malaria-related death since 2009. Prior to this, malaria was wreaking havoc in the community, including Ami Diop, a 12-year-old girl, who passed away in October 1999 after a two day sickness with fever.
Ami’s father, El Hadj Diop, devastated by the loss of his daughter, decided something had to be done to prevent other families from experiencing the tragedy of this preventable disease. He formed Association Islamique Sopey Mohamed (AISM), which became the town’s main source of education on stopping malaria. Twenty years later, persistence and communal responsibility have become the simple, yet innovative solution to Thiénaba’s malaria challenge.
Now reaching as many as 73 neighboring towns and villages, the association has developed a successful method for beating malaria that includes providing everyone–man, woman and child–with knowledge on preventing and detecting malaria.
In addition to educating the community, association members also conduct surprise home visits to ensure everyone is sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets every night. If members find nets are not being used, families are fined 250 FCFA (about $0.50), which goes into a community fund. It has been several years since anyone has been fined.
The association also organizes “set settal” days, where everyone comes together to keep the community clean, making sure to drain stagnant water and diminishing places mosquitoes can breed.
This week, the efforts of El Hadj, AISM and the entire community of Thiénaba were celebrated with the inauguration of a new community center and office space for AISM. On hand to celebrate their accomplishments were Prof. Awa Marie Coll Seck, Senegal’s Minister of State and RBM Partnership to End Malaria Board Member. “When we put our mind to it, we can effectively control malaria and even eliminate it once and for all here in Senegal and beyond,” remarked Prof. Coll Seck.
The town of Thiénaba and El Hadj are becoming international examples of how the smallest of actions can have the biggest impact on transforming lives. Such examples have inspired the national mobilization campaign Zero Malaria Starts with Me. Launched in 2014, the campaign is a movement aimed at increasing awareness, prioritization and commitment of the entire country towards the elimination of malaria. After close to four years of implementation in Senegal, the campaign will be scaled up to neighboring countries as cross-border collaboration is key to putting an end to malaria on the continent.