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Spotsylvania man leads effort to protect sister city from malaria
A villager carries malaria-fighting mosquito nets in Prince's Town. The World Health Organization estimates the disease kills 200,000 African infants each year.
Frank Delano/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 8/28/2007
In 2006, he organized a conference of malaria experts in Nashville, Tenn., followed by events in Fredericksburg to raise money to build the first school ever in Tonhon, a poor village in northern Ivory Coast.
He added Prince's Town as his next project in Africa after the seaside village in Ghana and Fredericksburg became sister cities in December.
Mosquitoes, like those that abound in Prince's Town and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, transmit the debilitating, often fatal disease. The nets help prevent its spread by protecting sleeping people from mosquito bites at night.
The World Health Organization estimates malaria kills 1 million people around the world each year, most of them in Africa.
Children are particularly susceptible to the high fevers and chills caused by the disease. According to WHO, 200,000 African infants die from malaria each year.
"Every 30 seconds, a child dies of malaria in Africa," Coulibaly said. The disease also puts pregnant women at risk of severe anemia, losing their babies or giving birth to low-weight infants.
Preventable and curable, malaria is a disease of the poor.
The bed nets Coulibaly donated to the town cost $7 each. Tablets of medicine to prevent malaria costs about $1 a day, more than most people in Prince's Town and Africa make.Spreading the word
Coulibaly's five days in Prince's Town were filled with meetings to decide who would get the bed nets.
"One difficulty of dealing with an indigenous community is reaching the people most at risk," he said. To that end, he met with leaders and health workers to make sure that pregnant women and children under 5 received and used the nets.
"Many people think the nets are hot and claustrophobic. People sometimes use the nets one time and put them away in a suitcase like they were Sunday clothes," he said.
"We need to prepare everybody and tell them, 'This saves you from dying. This saves you from taking medicine,'" he said.
He also worked to set up committees that could continue the fight against malaria and help evaluate progress.