I am trying to fall in love with myself again.

I hated my last year abroad. Until I realized I had to fall in love again. With myself.

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I have decided to live in Africa and I regretted that decision immediately. Mostly because how unprepared you can be in this state. After my service, I was incredibly lucky.

Carlos in Bus

I got a job immediately. With incredible pay and experience. I had no interest in returning back to America. I just watched the wrong person become President and it only cemented my dreams of living aboard. I have incredible international friends that would last over distances compared to friends in the US who became preoccupied with life.

I wasn’t angry at them. Africa didn’t excite them and WiFi/Netflix filled their lives. I was nothing but cool for the moment. A likable Facebook post that you pass on your feed.

I didn’t mind. I wanted to live in a foreign country. I wanted my children to have citizenship in an another country. I wanted to find someone who enjoyed the life I had made for myself. To meet me in my path and join their path with mine. I was living my dream.

I learned many things in my last year here. I forgot the village and my dog so easily. I wanted to continue work in nonprofit and public service work. I still wanted to write and produce novels that spoke of the era I lived in. I was on my way.

I learned that many things you plan for, don’t happen. I think of this of my senior year. I did not accomplish much. But it was okay I didn’t because I knew that this was leading towards my future. I wanted to continue living and doing whatever I wanted. How many times do I have to repeat that I was independent?

How many times do I have to tell myself that this last year was worth it? I will remake the money I have lost. I will grow in a person continuously.

Traveling alone is the most frightening part of this journey. Figuring everything out with your own American perspective without anyone else to talk to is frightening. Incredibly frightening. I am scared every day. I am so scared when RPCV’s judge my choices. Current PCVs are so proud of me. But they don’t understand this struggle. So much of the international world cannot be experienced without money. And outside of Peace Corps, you have to work a nine to five job with less than two weeks of personal days for vacation. Life sucks after Peace Corps.

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It sucked for a year. Loneliness was the largest burden. I had to constantly remind myself that I was okay. I am okay. You are okay. I will be okay. But I wasn’t.

I became sad. Depression kicked in quickly. Management at my new place sucked out any creative and happy energy. I didn’t care anymore. I wanted to write again but I lost my voice.

I became a survivor. Survive this last year. Survive this last year. Run back to you mother and let her keep you in her strong arms and regroup. Regroup then. Regroup then. Survive. Survive. Survive with a smile.

I lost friends again. It was frightening again. It is the universe, I kept thinking, saying I deserved loneliness. Friends walked in and out. I still survived. I lived in an incredible place and wanted nothing. I had food and a roof. I was warm. I was comfortable.

But I was only surviving. Depression was my nighttime, unhappiness was my morning ritual, and loneliness was my daily friend.

I couldn’t cry anymore and I couldn’t express my feelings. The writing was lost to me. It was the hardest heartbreak to ever happen in my life. I lost the love of my life.

Now you may be wondering why I am writing now. I had to fall back in love with the most important and incredible thing to happen to me. When I learned to write and write passionately, I also dreamed. Dreamed in scenes. Epics and tragedies occurred all in one night. In great detail, I would remember everything and would inspire me to write more. My dreams were filled with worlds and my hands were desperate. Desperate to write words and type them. Otherwise, my mind would explode with voices unheard.

I fell back in love. I am still depressed, trust me. That shit doesn’t go away. But I had to fall to rock bottom. The first thing I lost was trust. I no longer trust anyone. Emotions were investments and I no longer gave it away for free. I cannot call myself a giver when I expected a return. I thought daily that I deserved trust and love. I realized I may be alone forever. I had to be okay with that.

I am still not okay with it.

I had to fall to the bottom and rise back again.

A phoenix. Except there was no Dumbledore waking me up from the fragile ugly chick I am. I was burning first.

I am still slowly fall in love. I do not know this beautiful thing anymore. She has changed. So have I. But I know she is magical. And I want to deserve her again. To write is my life.

But I am still trying to survive and not live. It will take time before I am back. Or maybe fully understand who I am now. Who she is now.

 

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Fuck Off.

I’m not great at starting new ventures. Changes are not my favorite thing.

Especially after the year I had. Since last August, I have been rolling down a hill. This is a metaphor for depression, bad luck, shitty experiences. Etc. Etc.

I have been ashamed, chosen second, lied to and so much of my identity compromised that I felt the need to keep everything close to my chest. I don’t feel like opening up anymore. I don’t even feel like being myself which is incredibly sweet and open hearted. I tried to say sorry enough to fix everything but sometimes it doesn’t work. I know that from experience.

Sorries never worked. After abuse, sorries were bullshit. After pain and heartbreak, cheating and scandal, sorry is the last thing you want to hear. I wanted to prove that I have changed but as soon as I went on my path to recovery, the people I said sorry to, closed the door behind me. It was hurtful. Like kicking a dog you no longer want. No matter how much it wants you or loves you, because it bit you back, you still threw it out.

I wanted to change. Not for them anymore but for myself. Not for people to break me so down. I never wanted to be in that position of shame ever again.

I decided to expect nothing from people anymore. I used to think highly of everyone I meet. Fuck that noise. I am going to just move on from that quiet kindness and say, “Fuck off more often.”

 

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I couldn’t believe how much I wanted to close off the world. Truth be told, I wanted to do worse things. Drink too much, eat too much, or swallow enough pills. It was depression trying to push me off a ledge.

Actual clinical depression. Not some tumblr phobia we think of when life gets at us. Anxiety and depression rule my fucking life. Especially this last year. They were running the controls.

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It was either him running the controls whereas disgust, joy, or anger would be quiet for now since I couldn’t be angry for too long or disgusted for too long or joyful for too long. Anxiety and fear ran the place and when those moments lasted for days and months, anxiety called its one true friend.

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I cried almost every day. I could be making food. Then, tears would flow. I couldn’t stop feeling these things. I couldn’t stop it. No matter how much I tried. No matter how much I begged her to be strong.

So I decided that fuck off is my favorite phrase. Let rage come in but not fiery Lewis Black but cynic rage.

  1. doesn’t believe in people
  2. expect the least out of people
  3. protect me first and always
  4. be honest and true even in pain.
  5. who the fuck gives a crap if people don’t stay
  6. fuck off. I don’t give a shit.

Peace Corps Ruined Me.

I am sitting here, staring at a screen for almost four hours and my feet numb and tingling with reawakening. The tabs are open and many blog posts are there for my eyes to scan.

Top 3 Places to visit for the end of 2016

Places to Backpack Right Now

Africa and It’s Beautiful Cities

And it goes on and on and sometimes I just bookmark them because the images are too painful to look at.

I am on a travel site, clicking the drop downs and putting down my airport in Lusaka and how far away I could go. And then the dates are the daunting feeling that I couldn’t shake off. How many vacation days can I have? How many moments can I have? How many places can I visit in the small amount of time I have?

Why is this so fucking stressful? Why is the idea of FOMO not allowing me to enjoy the pleasant life I have created? Why do I need to see four countries at once? Why can’t I backpack anymore and see the world with a bag and a charged blackberry?

Because Peace Corps ruined my life. 

I was given an incredible chance to live in a village. Yes, true.

I was given a chance to live in another country in a rural setting for two whole years gaining skills in international development, international relations, public administration, program management and unforgettable memories. Yes, true.

I was given a job where travel was a given. It was encouraged and promoted within Zambia and all around  Africa. I have visited most of Sub Saharan Africa and I am so dazzled and amazed at how much I have seen already that it makes me wish to see all of it.

But Peace Corps ruined me. I want to talk to locals and walk in local streets, have a flair for local language learning and negotiations and working alongside the new friends I would make. Making real connections and working hard to learn the culture and adapt. One month at least is what I put in for my departure and arrival dates. One month is what I need to really experience it. But no one has 24 days of leave when you work a nine to five.

And Peace Corps ruined me so much that I now need to work on my own to even have a schedule like that ever again.

Don’t do Peace Corps. You will fall in love with the world and never have a chance to experience it all after you’re done. Or maybe you will. Maybe you will fall in love with the world and never choose to leave the traveling spirit ever again. Maybe you will dance in crowds and walk through a different street every day and maybe you won’t say Peace Corps ruined you but woke you up.

Peace Corps woke me up to the world and I am not giving up on it anytime soon. I am in love with this world and I will search for it and connect with it as much as I can possibly do.

Even if it means I will be broke.

Okay, no. That’s why the nine to five happens. So I won’t be broke doing this. But I will always be a traveler and learner of culture and I am not gonna settle for less like a 3 day weekend to Cabo. I dream big. Give me a road, great people, and good food and I will see you in thirty days!

I’m an International Hobo with a Journey to Joy.

Do you know the chilling fact that happens most of the time?

The crystallization of memory as if you left one person, one place, all swept up and clean and you hope to return to it one day without one piece of dust changed.

The crystallization is a brilliant process. It the pure freezing of time that we seek in our lives. Because that is what Peace Corps does. Gives you a slice of a world that never needed you, that existed on its own, and then it makes you love, live, and believe in the entire world. Then it ends and you hope you were part of something. You hope you could return to bliss.

But this is also the reason we remember our past romances and the reason we remember our childhood as our peaceful blissful years.

Even me, a child of domestic abuse with a parent who drank money away, I still could see the beauty in my childhood. The simplicity of the age and the fact that everything was simple. No decisions were made. Everything was made for us.

During my two years, my decisions were made for me. It was an ease I could quickly get used to because it was something I had to do. Nothing would work if I pushed for it. I was used to going with the flow as that was the cultural climate.

Then I was rushed back into the real world. And I thought I could use my skills to further my career. But everyone and I mean everyone did not care. They did not care how much I have gone through or how much I have learned because it didn’t help them or guide them. It may have tortured them with the guilt of lack of self-sacrifice or aggravated them that I couldn’t let go of my past.

My past will always be my present. Those two years have made me different. And yet, to the world, my experience is not worthwhile because even though I have experienced this, it is not good to dwell on the past. I have to move on and be better in a different environment just like I have adapted to the environment I was put in as a Peace Corps volunteer.

But now is the time to move on. To forget the past into rose colored filtered memories but to take what we have learned and grow from this. To remember it is our past and not for everyone to relive so that we have an optimal working space. Forgiveness is not our game. Forgive me, I am so used to other things.

What happened to my adaptability, I wondered?

What happened to my free-form style? Why am I so used to doing nothing? No drive behind my goals and dreams.

It wasn’t the lack of drive but the feeling of responsibility. I felt responsible for the lack of development I encountered in the village. I felt responsible for all the world’s problems that could be solved just because I got a taste of reality that made me feel like an international development believer. But instead, a dose of reality came after the reality check. That I am alone and one person in this field and that there are millions of strings and loops you have to take to get to where you want which is a developed country.

I also was ready for my easy career that was a perfect fit tailored to me. And that is the true problem. Struggle was part of these last two years.

Struggle. I was still a college graduate who had an entire path ahead where anything came come together from the lessons learned through Peace Corps. But the years have ended and I am closer to 26 than I ever was before.

 

Do I continue in development work? Do I go for public policy work to really change lives? Do I still write and become the writer that my ten year old self dearly wished to be?

And then another question came up to play: why wasn’t there enough time to conquer all these endeavors?

And the scariest thought of all:: Money.

I am here to say that this blog has always centered around travel and Peace Corps. But I am changing this. I am morphing this blog to represent me, Meghan Mathew.

I am an aspirational person and my dream was always to change the world either through the written word or the policies or organizations I start or work in that really make a calculatable impact.

 

I want to socially change the world through my actions and it may include all the goals I go for or may be through one. But you will see it unfold here. On my journey to joy.

A Namibian Desert Awaits

I usually am late when it comes to posting about adventures that has happened whilst I take this journey into self awakening and manifestation.

One of the lands I have dreamed about growing up thinking of the vast continent of Africa as a little girl were the coastal countries influenced by colonialism that plagued their history and their independence and finally the local charisma and culture that still thrives into its future.

Namibia was one of those countries that caught my eye that survived with a third of Zambia’s population in a desert location that is also coastal with incredible game parks and safaris. Animals here are the animals you think of when you think of Africa, coasting desert skylines, bare watering holes that have a  season of its own, and sleeping under bushes and trees to escape the heat and sun.

It was an adventure seeing it for ourselves as we walked around Windhoek for the first few days. As Volunteers, we have more confidence as travelers hoping for local culture and exposure, not really wanting any luxury or tourist locations unless we have a craving for treat yo self kind of mentality. So we searched out local  talent and music shows that is present in this capital city. I was expecting a lot more nightlife but this city turned quiet and unsafe as soon as the sun went down. We expected more from this city but the great finds we encountered were a surprise.

Singers of the area sang of freedom, representation, and the beauty that surrounds them. It was powerful being surrounded by people of color from all areas of the world listening to lyrics that show the strength of people still trying to recognize their own voice and their own beauty.

Driving was the next challenge. Driving around in a small car was not smart, i agree but for two people who decides to rent out lodges or camp spaces on a cheap way. We stocked up on food and meat as well as snacks for hours of driving on sandy roads and gravel while we played music.

Traveling up north we passed Omaruru where we spent time at wood carvings and souvenirs. We slept at Uis and then drove the wrong way for an hour, delaying our whole day. We went to the petrified forest and saw mica, iron oxide, and silicone replace every living cell in fallen trees making them last over thousands of years. Later that evening, we got a flat tire causing us to be strong and realize we may be stranded with low gas in the heat with no strength. Luckily, immediately a car came by and saved us. We had it in the bag with just time but hey, they did it due time. We race to Twlfyontein and we were late but with some rushing and begging, we joined the last tour guide. In some beautiful landscapes, we saw incredible engravings with deep symbolic meaning to the people of the area.

The heat of the entire day soaked in. I was sick for four days already and nothing in my body told me I was truly enjoying everything. Except the beauty that surrounded us all day. Except the chance to breathe in an air that was different even though it is a neighbor to Zambia.

Come to Africa, because in one breathless week, Namibia has taken away my words. Wonder what the entire continent would do for you?

 

Close of Service

As the final weeks come down to days, nothing scares me more than a ticking time clock counting down to an end of a chapter.

Pressure of change is the fearful moment in my life. Every time life had come in and started to change something, it was always a surprising moment defined to prove myself and take a step higher but always since the view is the same or feels no different, I don’t truly believe nothing has changed.

Until the end. Until when the hours are changing and I realize the woman who started this journey, who was at the beginning of this chapter and wrote this chapter, no longer is the same.

Pressure of change. Pressure of life knocking on your door and waking you up to the reality that good things eventually end is a frightening shock. My heart was on alarmingly high amount of stress. It beat fast and it was dangerous how it was normal that high every day. Migraines plagued my mornings and I was about to crack every time people asked me what was wrong.

What was wrong?

The most incredible thing I have ever done in my entire life. The life changing thing I chose to do and people were proud of me for, was about to end. Families and friends and lives have changed because I realized I didn’t belong to one country.

Close of service had many programs. First, signing off on district reports and final site reports to the program manager of your specific program. Then, a final language proficiency exam only done at Peace Corps Zambia. Meetings with a few administrators lead to canceling and closing accounts, and finalizing any last accounts that we have through Peace Corps and finally a meeting with the country director for final remarks, and information about future RPCV status.

And finally there I was, at the bell, in the courtyard of the Peace Corps compound and I rang out of service on August 19, 2016 at 9:30. Tears, joy, and still a heart pounding close to an almost heart attack, I couldn’t believe that after two years, I felt unchanged but of course, none of that is true. I was a different woman because of this experience and I would never take it away. i wish I could live in this bliss forever of working in a warm place and network of people who only could understand this experience compared to a population back home. I was and always will be Peace Corps and Zambia took my heart.

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One Last Sunrise

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A mud house with two rooms, thatch roof, and filled with memories

I have a home here in this country. It is less than five hundred meters from my parents’ house. When I travel from my house to places around and abroad, I miss the feel of tossing my bags in the corner of my house and sitting at my porch watching my family live their lives in front of me in my yard.

And my home isn’t in New York. In an apartment overlooking a yard with data and network.

My home is here in Sub Saharan Africa.

How can I leave this place after sinking my feet deep into its soil and planting the thread like fibers into its earth two years ago?

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where I cook my food and dry my dishes

I have extended the two room house that Peace Corps had recommended for the village to build for me. The house had a tall ceiling, built by my host father who is a hardworking carpenter and builder. I painted my walls bright blue, with yellow, gold, and green accents. My floors are waxed and citenge fabric are framed and hung on the wall.

When I first came to this country, people wondered how I could live in another country for two years. How you can adjust to the place that is so isolating and live on your own in a home that is so different from an apartment?

I made a decision: to not expect a home but to make it a home. To do everything in my power to make it a home. To paint it mine, to build it mine, to create a space where I can escape to even in the village.

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the sun meets me in the morning

So once everything had its place that I enjoy returning to, I realized that my house was mine. My hammer had its own space and my books had its own shelf. It is stupid to find your home just because you put up a shelf. But what life was present during that moment is the important part. My host mother helped me paint my walls because I really wanted to show how talented women were. My host father helped me hang shelves because I didn’t know how to put nails into a mud brick walls without it falling down because of the weight. And my host father joked about the amount of books I brought. He told me that reading must be the greatest escape in this quiet village.

He was wrong. My escape wasn’t my book but my family. They listened to my complaints and understood my problems. They let go of their worries on me and it doesn’t burden me.

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My first roommates

I made my home with my family. And laying here on the ground because I still don’t have furniture, allows me to see outside my door to the family that has taken me in. I hear English words that I have used and even Malayalam words I taught my family from my Indian heritage as the children rush around with my dog.

Cultural integration is my goal. My first goal in my service was to have a family here in this part of the world but what I didn’t realize was how hard it was going to be when I wake up and it is important to my goal as a future ambassador from my country to the country I serve to continue making peaceful connections and incredible relationships with the host nationals. It is important to teach your families and friends about your home family, your home town, your home state, and your home country but also about how different it was for you especially. How it was that you arrived in their world and what decision and choices your parents and friends and variables led you there. So when I worked hard for relationship with my village, I kept thinking of the future volunteers and how effective my service has been.

It was on my mind that I’d leave one day. Every sunrise and sunset, I would think about how I would deal with this and the truth is, I can’t deal with it. It will always be my home. It will always be where my feet settle and my heart lingered and instead of thinking of uprooting, I think of seedlings and cuttings where a part of my life will continue living without me. In their hearts, in their memories, and in their future, I was there and I will continue to live there.

But it doesn’t matter if the walls are sky blue, if the paint chips away, or if the lines of pencil that show how tall the children have grown fade away because I grew here, I lived here, and no matter how many sun rises happen without me, my last sunrise wouldn’t be the saddest one. Because I had too many days of life compared to one last day. So if nothing happens it means that an every day, normal daily life routine happened and that is just one fine to me.

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one day, I’ll have one last sunrise here

This is a place where I don’t feel alone
This is a place where I feel at home.
And now, it’s time to leave and turn to dust………..
Out in the garden where we planted the seeds
There is a tree as old as me
Branches were sewn by the color of green
Ground had arose and passed its knees
By the cracks of the skin I climbed to the top
I climbed the tree to see the world

“To Build A Home”
The Cinematic Orchestra

Time is There.

As I begin to explain the greatness of this country, the beauty of its resources and its grace, and as I begin to call this place a home, a resting place for my head, with a bed and almost over hundreds books read, a family, a nest, a treasure of love, great food, and routine, time woke me up and I saw that my time is coming to a close.

It hurts as 2016 started and I realized my Christmas with them would be my last Christmas with my host family. That after two birthdays, the next one would not be celebrated with an entire village singing my name. I see my close as my host mom cries seeing my house and thinking how any one else could live where I, Megha lives. How could she call someone’s name and not see my face, she says to me.

Its the brilliance of this program that the success is not in the tangible physical evidences but in the connections, the small glimpses of change and the brilliance radiates out because of our choice to give our time.

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I remind people who have given their time up to help me that they are valued, loved, and are the change that Zambia needs. They are the nameless plenty who strive to work hard and wish to be recognized but will never be accepted. They are the ones who give me their time and instead of staring at the oddity of the foreigner, extends their hand and greets me. They are the brilliance that radiates out. The connection that would hold me to the end of my service and the flecks of light that will shine when I dust off the memory of my time here.

Time is that resource that is constantly available and coming towards us but always rushing away and swept out. It is constant as is change. And the beautiful thing is, giving my time to this community is the gift that we Peace Corp volunteers and any volunteers of any organization and any country give for our peers and friends of our community. Our community, the world.

 

Time is plentiful. It will. Even if it runs out for you, it is constantly there and giving up that phrase, “I don’t have time,” is the first step. Because taking that time, and making connections with people that transcend distance, space, and income is important. It is important because it is one more person who is on your side. Who could make a difference because you made a difference for them.

 

Because you said hello. Because you were patient with their flaws and thought them your own. Because you decided to come to a country and try your best, they will see that trying the best is beneficial. I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted. And it makes me regret a lot. But never do I regret my choices to try and work my hardest, no matter what had happened in the last year.

 

Because I have gained love from people who are not related to me. I am loved by people who see me as their own. They don’t need me to save them, or do their programs. They made a friend and I made some friends and we worked together to make a difference where we could. And that’s more than I could ever ask for.

 

Take time. You have a lot of it. Don’t say you do don’t because maybe it’s not really important to you. It’s there if you just try. It’s there, that brilliant radiance of humans capable of love and connection that goes beyond lines, borders, countries, and blood.

 

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Malaria and the cost of a mosquito bite

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Malaria madness is a custom incentive program within Peace Corps to help fuel volunteers to promote and increase malaria prevention programs, health talks, net checks, and village participation into reducing malaria in Africa and especially in our specific provinces in Zambia.

This year and last year in March, we have worked hard to win as a province to win more points in each program. This year, I have done health talks in every public area and facility but also net checks of homes and distribution of nets.

Here is some information that can help you understand the problem and seriousness of malaria, brought to you by UNICEF.

Key Statistics

•  Of all people who die from malaria in Zambia, 50 percent or more are children under 5 years of age;
•  50 percent of under-5 hospital admissions are due to malaria;
•  Malaria accounts for 20 percent of maternal deaths.

Background

Though Zambia has made strides in malaria prevention and control in the last five years, it still kills more children under the age of five than any other disease or illness. Malaria affects more than 4 million Zambians annually, accounting for approximately 30 percent of outpatient visits and resulting in almost 8,000 deaths each year.  Under five-year-old children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable, especially those in more remote and impoverished areas, with 35-50 percent of under-five mortality and 20 percent of maternal mortality attributable to malaria.

Combating malaria is vitally important in the battle to save young lives and protect children from losing their mothers.

Malaria is both preventable and treatable, but it is a complicated disease whose prevention and control requires multiple interventions. Preventing malaria requires creating a malaria-free environment, which means spraying the inner walls of populated structures (homes, schools, hospitals, businesses, and other institutions) with insecticides and always sleeping under insecticide-treated nets (ITNs). Other measures include environmental control to prevent the development of mosquito breeding grounds.

For those for whom prevention measures fail, prompt and effective treatment is imperative. Treatment begins with recognizing the symptoms of malaria, seeking treatment immediately at the onset of illness, and having access to community or facility based health care workers who have the knowledge to treat malaria at its various stages.

Issue

Malaria prevention and treatment is expensive. Only over the last 5 years, as a result of partnership between the Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ), UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the President’s Malaria Initiative, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, and other partners has affordable ITNs been made widely available. In the past, nets were financially out-of-reach for poor Zambians, costing upwards of US$12 each. Free distribution and highly subsidized nets are now widely available, but need still outstrips supply. Currently 64 percent of households in Zambia own at least one ITN.

Drugs for the treatment of malaria are constantly evolving and improving. The new and improved medications are more costly and many hospitals and clinics face challenges in supply and logistics management. Despite having Global Fund and other approved resources for procurement of anti-malarial medications, occasional stock outs occur due to lapses in the supply chain. Further prior to 2006, most cases of malaria in Zambia didn’t get a confirmed laboratory diagnosis, as the capacity for diagnosis was low. In the last five years, the Ministry of Health and partners have introduced new diagnostic technology-rapid diagnostic test (RDTs), which can be used in remote rural districts where microscopic diagnosis is impractical.

Poor health seeking behavior among communities is another challenge related to low awareness about malaria. Mothers and caregivers sometimes do not recognize the signs of malaria in infants or they seek other types of treatment from traditional healers. While user fees for basic health services have been removed in rural areas of Zambia where the poorest children and families live, communities still face the dilemma of indirect health costs  such as for transportation among others and hence delays in seeking care.

Action

In partnership with the Government and under the National Malaria Control Programme, UNICEF supports a variety of interventions aimed at mitigating the impact of malaria on children and women. ITNs are periodically mass distributed at no cost to recipient households, while highly subsidized low-cost ITNs (costing less than US$1) are available at antenatal clinics for pregnant women and children under the age of five. Free nationwide provision of intermittent presumptive treatment (IPTp) allows pregnant women to receive at least three doses of Fansidar to protect them from malaria during pregnancy.

UNICEF also supports the Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (IMCI) programme, which aims to reduce child illnesses and deaths by focusing on the greatest threats to child survival. IMCI addresses the multiple layers of newborn and child health care by ensuring that common diseases like pneumonia, malaria, HIV, and malnutrition are treated at every level, from households to Government hospitals. IMCI stresses training for healthcare workers in the aggressive treatment of common childhood illnesses within the first 24 hours of its onset and helps train mothers and caregivers in household management of common childhood illnesses, malaria included.

Impact

• Significant progress has been made in malaria control with increases in access to treatment, ITN ownership and utilization, indoor spraying, and public education.
• Zambia passed the Roll Back Malaria target of reducing malaria mortality by half between 2000 to 2010.
• Zambia was among the first two countries in the region to programmatically introduce the new dispersible formulation of first-line anti-malarial drug Artemether-Lumefantrine (Coartem®) suitable for under five children in the weight range 5 to 35 kg.
• The percentage of households with at least one ITN increased from 38 percent to 64 percent between 2006 and 2010.
• Percentage of children ages 0–59 months who slept under ITNs increased from 24 percent in 2006 to 50 percent between 2006 and 2010.
• Percentage of pregnant women who sleep under an ITN increased from 24 percent in 2006 to 50 percent between 2006 and 2010.
• Further, 89 percent of pregnant women received at least one dose of malaria preventive medicine and more than 70 percent received two or more doses.

How Malaria spreads from people and forms inside the body is something I have  been trying to teach as people in my village believe that mangoes bring mosquitoes or the green maize that grows in fields or witches bring it to children and people they have cursed.

 

Malaria is important to Peace Corps volunteers and an incredible way to continue preventing it is teach, teach, teach.

  1. about the disease
  2. about the course of treatment and importance of finishing the treatment to prevent resistance
  3. about the high risk populations
  4. and the use of nets and spraying of homes and buildings to continue prevention and stop malaria

Malaria can be prevented and it is important to continue spreading the knowledge to make sure we keep up the good work, Central Province!! And you can help too!

 

Breastfeeding and the Importance of Nutrition

Good health for a child starts long before the child is born. In this concept of health, growing up in preventative, preparation first country where resources and officials have a public health sector that is widely used and implemented, the idea of a child’s health and nutrition is thought of constantly. From the moment of conception to TV and movies, it is a freak out mode to understanding, learning, denial, lots of angry IKEA moments, to finally acceptance and lots of wishing you napped more in your youth.

However, in many countries where public health and the insistence of certain “practices” or options for different birthing plans, or financial situations or birthing rooms or paint colors or naming the baby immediately are as new as the past 20 years, it is common for health to fail not because of lack of knowledge, or poverty but because of culture, and resources that are not there.

To implement policy and fine tune it after and management is a long process. Here in Zambia, women are used to listening to nurses but they are also used to being told to go home after two hours of delivery. There is no recovery room because there is another girl waiting for a bed to squeeze out and scream in quiet while nurses yell at you for not being prepared when being prepared was never in your lessons.

No one teaches you how to give birth or what a baby needs and that bleach is expensive and that babies need more than a bath bucket, towels, hats and crocheted blankets. That’s what they know because they watch their families and their communities prepare and deal with so many situations ad they come but never planning ahead. They have to. They do not have constant incomes or constant variables that help get constant yearly incomes that allow the same amount of maize to be grown and harvested and sold that allows for “planning.”

They are not victims. The mothers of my village are not ignorant, or stupid or no excuse for you to state the words, “these people are likes this especially those used to this poverty.” I don’t care what you think needs explaining on why they don’t follow the “good” book of advice that your mothers and health teachers have convinced you to do. But they are not those girls who do not care. They do not have the means to care because things are handled differently than our mothers have taught us and our society has shaped us into different people. I don’t think we are better but it is easier for us to be better.

We have internet at our fingertips. No one has to stand at the base of a tree on a hill. We have expert advice and incredible upload and download speeds that allow for constant chat and feedback that is immediate. We live in a world where if we do not get an answer back, we seek out an answer or a faster response. Complaint cards were because of us. Comment emails started from the first American who decided to speak our mind. But in the world, where comments were never possible and no solution arose but continuity and constant were the culture, these women have grown in this world of not expecting there to be more. There is no other site with a different opinion or another nurse close enough for a different method. There is one choice. Get help when you can, if you can. Done.

Nutrition is something you cannot prepare for when your food comes during certain times of the year and if and only if, the rain was constant, the soil was dry but mineral rich, the workers plenty, and the seed strong.

And when kale and Vitamin E is so unavailable unless it is part of the year, or when you have the great vegetables but you have to cook it well to kill the diarrhea causing germ that grow from the soil that would harm your growing baby. You cook constant foods that exist all year round that fed you and satisfied your hunger as a child. You didn’t know they were nutrient vacant, dense, but it was filling and it energized you and filled you up and fatten you. And here, FAT is GOOD. It is STRONG. IT IS TOUGH. IT is here ALL YEAR ROUND.

So a breastfeeding campaign to get mothers to sign to feed their children for six months straight on only breast milk is a challenge. It is important, yes but you have day care and pumps and refrigeration and affordable formula mix and you don’t have to carry your child on your back after carrying your child for nine months in your stomach for years to come. These women are the epitome of strength and to breast feed for as many times as required for six months is so incredibly difficult to ask for, not even do.

Breast feeding campaigns begin with education on the importance of a good foundation of nutrition and those who attend make the time because they want to lay down that foundation and those that do not attend are not rejecting the knowledge but instead accepts the evidence that everyone around them didn’t have six straight months of breast milk but still grew up fine.

They are not rejecting knowledge, nor are they bad mothers. They are change that needs to be seen and then only will they can see the benefits. So when I started this project, I thought one person who tried would be a great win. Instead I had six women under the age of 24 try for six months. Until the fifth month, were their mothers tried to integrate slight foods like porridge and peanut sauce and softened nshima and they trust their mothers that their children will be happier with different foods than watery milk that may also have stopped flowing.

Five babies grew increasingly to the notice of so many women who have seen the change. They see that they can try harder for their child and they are ready to try. To see for themselves that they can do as better as their counterparts have done. And the one who listened to old fashioned knowledge and didn’t ask more questions were asked why she lagged behind while her fellow friends excelled. She wanted to try, she said. Of course, she loved her baby but she was not wrong. She wasn’t that convinced as the others were but people could see the difference. She still fed her baby great nutrient rich recipes when he could eat and he caught up but it was shown that her life was normal before I came in. Everything she would’ve done without me teaching would’ve not been noticed or even considered wrong but what every mother does.

 

My job was not to tell them they did something wrong but to help them see that they can do better and realize that they have choices. Not just to do what is done but to choose between and grow from the freedom of choice.