Ira, Côte d’Ivoire
Throughout the week there have been 35 United Methodists from the Texas Annual Conference here in Côte d’Ivoire. They have been divided into small teams of two or three, working at distribution posts across five districts. These volunteers, including pastors and lay leaders alike, have been able to experience the distribution of the bed nets firsthand.
Each day has been full and long and hot. Alarm clocks go off at 5:30a.m. and the vans pull out by 7:00a.m. By 9:00, the volunteers are at their sites, moving bales of bed nets, opening individual bags, handing the nets to children and marking their pinkies blue. Despite it being Day 4 today, none of the volunteers are dragging. They are still as excited to get out to their sites as they were on Day 1 to help deliver bed nets. To read their accounts visit http://www.txcumcmedia.org/africablog/.
Today I traveled to Ira – a village atop a hill about 80km from Abidjan. The “advanced” strategy is still in full swing, as the vaccination/distribution post was set up this morning at a primary school in the center of town. Apparently word travels fast in Ira. Within an hour the distribution site was flooded with children, parents and on-lookers. And the volunteers from Texas, who have spent the previous three days working at distribution sites in Dabou, not only stepped in but stepped up.
Lara, a nurse in Houston, TX, was asked if she could help administer the measles vaccine as Reverend Stephanie helped hold the children as they received the vaccine. Alan was asked to help give the Vitamin A supplement and Reverend Nancy continued to tear open bed net packages and hand them to children as their pinkies were marked blue by Colombo. And all this was done with community health workers at their side. The entire process began to move twice as fast as it had been, which was needed as the line of families coming to vaccinate their children and receive bed nets grew by the minute.
We often talk about partnership at an organizational level – and rightly so. This national integrated health campaign in Côte d’Ivoire has been made possible through partnerships between international organizations, local organizations and the Ministry of Health of Côte d’Ivoire. But the site in Ira today reminded me that the campaign is also a success on account of partnership among individuals. Working together with the community health workers and volunteers, the United Methodist volunteers from Texas have been able support the effort to distribute 1 million nets in 5 days in Côte d’Ivoire.
In the end, perhaps 1,000 children were given life-saving bed nets, measles vaccines, and medicines today in Ira. Perhaps more. Even I had an opportunity to step in and help hold the children as they got their vaccinations. It was an incredible experience to not only watch the children receive life-saving health interventions, but be a part of the process. An experience I will never forget.