Friday and Saturday we ran five distributions and gave away around 2,000 free bed nets to seven communities in rural Ghana!
It feels so great to have completed this vital part of our project and so rewarding too. Most of the people who received nets are poor farmers who live in rudimentary housing, collect water from a stream, and have no access to electricity. Many suffer from malaria. In fact, just other day Julia and I met a six month old baby who had a bad case.
The distribution days were crazy long from 6am until 6pm non-stop. We unpacked every net, cut the tag to identify it as a TAMTAM net, and repacked and stapled it…for about 2,000 nets. Then we distributed the nets from five points. We called the name of the compound head who was supposed to receive the nets and waited for either the head to come up or, as often happened, a representative of the head. Then we checked if they knew basic demographic information on the household, like the number of adults and children, and cross-referenced their responses with information collected during the pre-registration. For the most part, this method worked smoothly. The villagers waiting for their nets were not afraid to object if someone tried to cheat the system and most of the checks worked.
Things did go awry, though. Murphy’s (or Sod’s, if you’re British) Law, I guess. In some cases, it looks like the initial registration numbers were off. In one case, the community health volunteer had a difficult time collecting the pre-registration data and that whole community was a bit off. Some people who did everything they were supposed to were not on the net lists because the CHV didn’t submit their pre-registration form. The whole experience gave me a better appreciation for how important CHVs are to a project like this. One volunteer can affect an entire distribution pretty quickly. In pretty much every distribution there was disenchantment at the end of the distribution. People from other communities, who unfortunately were not covered in the distribution, showed up and were angry to not receive a net. I suspect part of this problem stems from the fact that most interventions in places like these are operated on a first come first serve basis and not by community. We did anticipate this and made clear to all that only those registered would receive a net. Only so much you can do. It was hard to leave people without a net who had waited all day.
We spent today recuperating and we’re off tomorrow for a day trip to train the volunteers on the hang-up component of the study.
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