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No one should die of malaria today

by Global Diversity Foundation
No one should die of malaria today
No one should die of malaria today
No one should die of malaria today
No one should die of malaria today
No one should die of malaria today
No one should die of malaria today
No one should die of malaria today
No one should die of malaria today
No one should die of malaria today
No one should die of malaria today
No one should die of malaria today
No one should die of malaria today
No one should die of malaria today
No one should die of malaria today
No one should die of malaria today
Eglee celebrates with a community elder in Iguana
Eglee celebrates with a community elder in Iguana

We continue to celebrate that the delivery of all 3,000 insecticidal nets and the accompanying antimalarial medications and medical supplies to Venezuelan Indigenous communities, during a brief window of opportunity in February 2019. That near-miraculous feat was buoyed by your generosity, and the knowledge, determination and goodwill of many actors.

On the heels of our last report, Egleé asked me to particularly recognize the support of Steve, of Rotary International, another committed partner of communities in the region. Steve shared the logistical contacts that made possible the international shipping of the nets, covered the cost of one delivery trip, and donated additional nets for the 300 members of one community who sleep in beds, since our nets were specially designed to protect hammock users.

We are incredibly grateful to have gotten nets into the hands of community members before the elevated malarial risk of an unusually wet summer struck: Venezuela is again experiencing extreme weather, with widespread flooding closing overland routes, and fuel shortages grounding privately-owned planes. That combination has kept us in the planning stages of the next stage of the project. 

Project leader Egleé shared with us that it is “basically impossible to enter the communities now…. We received a donation of malaria medicines about a month ago and there was no way to make it available to the indigenous communities. There are two constraints:

1. It is raining like last year too much, unsafe and very complicated to travel with cargo.

2. The government has new bans for private flights and access to airstrips and plane gas. I contacted Enrique [the skilled bush pilot who helped to deliver the nets and medicines this spring] for instance to plan a flight but he is not flying now since conditions are the worst he remembers....”

Another project collaborator, skilled in navigating the complex current environment, had shared with Egleé the procedure to place an official seal on a humanitarian cargo destined for an Indigenous community. That seal enabled us to deliver a truck full of medical supplies and nets overland to Betania in February, through dozens of military checkpoints. That collaborator recently shared their own frustration with their current inability to reach the remote communities with whom they work:

“I tell you that there is not enough gasoline in the country for piston-engine airplanes,” they wrote. “The last logistic scenarios are being closed to continue working in the indigenous communities in the next 3 months and that is very sad for me. I have… large boxes of medicines and supplies that we have not been able to take to the field because the flights are suspended…[and] a kit of medical supplies and several medicines to serve 1000 people x 3 months, where I also include Kayamá, Iguana, Betania. Now we only need the aviation fuel so that the planes return to flight to take those resources.”

Egleé echoes her collaborator's urgency, and desire to continue work in relationship: “In the last three months I could not reach the communities to actually start the new phase of the project. We are waiting to August and more probably September.”

We look forward to updating you again as floodwaters recede and project leaders can rejoin communities in their ongoing, essential work for wellbeing.

Bush pilot Enrique approaches Kayama with supplies
Bush pilot Enrique approaches Kayama with supplies
Community net distribution event in February 2019
Community net distribution event in February 2019

Links:

Joti community in remote Kayama receive the nets
Joti community in remote Kayama receive the nets

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away” appeared as I opened my laptop earlier today. Yes, I admit to a subscription to a daily inspirational quote! This morning’s quote was fitting, as I came to my desk to write about the progress of delivery of mosquito nets impregnated with insecticide to remote indigenous Venezuelan communities in Iguana, Kayama and Betania. As I thought back on the Skype conversation I had with Egleé late last week, I reflected on the elaborate manoeuvres Egleé performed to deliver the life-saving nets, her determination born of a a genuine zeal to help friends who have become like family.

The journey was complex, and at times, nerve-wracking. Following an arduous journey as cargo from Vietnam (by ship, train and plane!), the nets landed in Caracas, Venezuela early in 2019. In February, Egleé arrived to take inventory of all the donated items—including medical supplies, and 3,000 mosquito nets, 60 bundles in total. She divided them up for delivery to the health centres of each community. As she began moving the nets, she was once again overwhelmed by support for the project, as individuals stepped up and enabled local transfers, both financially and logistically, and offered administrative assistance that granted her, and the supplies, safe passage to their destinations.

It was (and still is) a time of chaos in Venezuela. As Eglee says, “it was a miracle that the nets were delivered”. Five trips were made in total, each marked with its own set of challenges. Ground transport services suspended all trips due to protests in cities throughout Venezuela, and when they finally proceeded, the truck destined for Betania was stopped and inspected 61 times by members of the military. Flight bans and last-minute prohibitions by the Venezuelan government meant alternative arrangements had to be made, including forcing planes already airborne to detour, incurring additional, costly delays. During her first journey to Iguana, the military questioned Eglee’s presence, causing her to abandon the trip. The flight continued with the medicine and nets on board, while a military personnel took her seat in the plane.

Despite all these challenges, they pushed on, and supplies reached Jotï, Eñepa and Piaroa communities from Iguana, Kayama and Betania, who are now more protected against malaria. From her home in the U.S., Egleé shares some photos from her trip and extends her thanks, stressing on the amazing feeling of not being alone throughout her journey. “So many people were backing this initiative,” she says. “It gave me the inspiration and the will to go on. It was not an easy task and was loaded with surreal complexities...but it was successfully accomplished thanks to you.”

Egleé and her international team are now excited about the second phase of their project, which focuses on carrying out research with these same three communities to understand the drivers of the increase in the incidence of malaria, allowing for implementation of targeted, context-specific strategies to reduce malaria morbidity and mortality. Please click here for more information on the “Alleviating malaria in Venezuela” project.

Bird
Bird's-eye view of Iguana in the Venezuelan Amazon
Checking out the treated nets
Checking out the treated nets
Eglee hands over nets to Piaroa community members
Eglee hands over nets to Piaroa community members
A box of medical supplies sent to Betania
A box of medical supplies sent to Betania
Documentation was carried out during distributions
Documentation was carried out during distributions

Links:

Infographic of donated mosquito nets
Infographic of donated mosquito nets' trajectory

Three Indigenous communities in Venezuela will soon begin to effectively prevent malaria. Three thousand insecticidal mosquito nets—specially designed to be hammock-compatible—shipped from Swiss manufacturer Vestergaard’s factory in Vietnam in September. They arrived by container ship in Savannah, Georgia in December, and traveled onward by train to the port of Miami, Florida. Next port of call? By air to Caracas, Venezuela (see infographic).

The nets (see diagram) are poised to arrive to the shipping company’s Caracas headquarters by end of January. Project leader Egleé will be there to receive them and begin delivery, by flight and overland, of as many nets as project funds permit. She has lined up her preferred pilot, who is familiar with the communities and their difficult-to-land airstrips. A doctor committed to Indigenous peoples’ health will accompany her on two of the trips to help deliver much-needed medicines and medical supplies. He will consult with local clinic personnel like Samuel, pictured here, a microscopist in Kayamá for over 20 years.

Egleé will travel first to Betania de Topocho (a Piaroa community), then to Kayamá (a Jotï/Eñepa community) and to Caño Iguana (a Jotï community). Egleé will provide recipients with detailed information on the most effective use of the nets. She will also be able to collect the most current health data with the communities. This will inform local practitioners and their support team to develop future strategies to improve the local medical system. 

Egleé writes, “Please send all your best thoughts and prayers for the successful delivery of the nets and medical items! We hope to offer an account of all our work in a couple of months.” Meanwhile, to enable delivery of all the nets, we continue to welcome your donations! You can help ensure that all the nets reach their destination before the rainy season arrives. Contact susannah@global-diversity.org to make a donation by check, or donate online here.

Samuel (Kayama) identifies malarial strains
Samuel (Kayama) identifies malarial strains
Special mosquito net design for use with hammocks
Special mosquito net design for use with hammocks
Hammocks serve many purposes in Betania de Topocho
Hammocks serve many purposes in Betania de Topocho
Joti microscopist Alirio at work in Kayama
Joti microscopist Alirio at work in Kayama

Egleé and Stanford, Hawapo project leaders, share the following detailed update. It highlights both the project’s commitment to transparency, and the focused effort required to deliver this lifesaving solution. They write:

**************

"We hope this message finds you in good health and spirits, enjoying the fall season. Thanks to your generous help, we are making progress towards our goal to mitigate the malaria crisis among Jotï, Piaroa and Eñepa indigenous communities of the Venezuelan Amazon. We are deeply thankful for your goodwill and material support for this humanitarian effort. 

"With great appreciation, we take this opportunity to update you in regards to our endeavors associated with this project:

1. We have bought and received by donation some medicines and medical supplies for the dispensaries at Kayama, Iguana and Betania de Topocho, the three Indian communities that are the focus of our aid efforts at this time. [[These items were mailed to the headquarters of Action for Solidarity in Miami from different parts of the U.S. This selfless and noble NGO then sent them to our workplace, the Laboratory of Human Ecology at the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC) in Caracas, where we have the items stored, ready for distribution to the communities. 

2. Thanks to the diligence of an old friend and ally, Daniel, the Swiss company Vestergaard kindly offered to donate 3,000 mosquito nets for hammocks impregnated with insecticide to our project. We had initially contacted them to buy the mosquito nets, but when they learned our purpose, they agreed to provide them free of charge. In July, we received definite notification of this generous donation, on the condition that we guarantee the means and resources to transport the nets from the port of Haiphong, Vietnam to Venezuela. Your donations this summer, totaling nearly USD $10,000, allowed us to make that guarantee.

3. Also in mid-July, Stephen of the International Rotary Club graciously donated 200 mosquito nets made for beds. These are destined for those families at Betania who sleep in beds, rather than hammocks. These nets are already in Venezuela, but not yet in Amazon State. We planned to deliver those nets in the latter part of August, but were unable to do so because of flooding. The rainy season was particularly strong this year, and by mid-August the Orinoco River had risen to such an extent that it was almost 19 meters above its normal level, the highest level ever recorded. The high water flooded extensive portions of the main cities (Puerto Ayacucho, Caicara del Orinoco, Ciudad Bolívar) and small towns along its banks, as well as roads and bridges. Ferry crossings connecting the northern and southern sides of the river were also flooded, and the ferries shut down. A bridge on the highway between Betania and the location of the nets was totally washed out. There was simply no way to move the mosquito nets to the community or deliver the medical items and other supplies that we had collected at that time.

4. At the end of August, once we were assured, based on your generous donations, that we would have enough funds to pay for the transport and customs fees, we informed Vestergaard that we were able to meet their conditions. We also drew up a special design for nets made for use with hammocks of the approximate size and dimensions used in the three communities. Vestergaard commenced the manufacturing process in early September and informed us that the nets would be ready by early October. Now, they are waiting to be shipped!

5. We contacted several shipping companies about this job, and settled on one that had successfully delivered mosquito nets to Venezuela in the recent past. Next Day Cargo, Inc.,  is based in Florida, U.S.A. The cost to deliver the nets as far as Caracas, Venezuela is US $4785.60, and the estimated time from pick-up in Vietnam to delivery in Caracas is 80 days. As with all project expenses, we will not touch the money personally. Global Diversity Foundation will continue to diligently manage the funds, and will pay the shippers directly. 

So, the money saved by acquiring the nets via donation will be used to ship them to Venezuela and then to cover the first of a series of flights to deliver them to the Amazonian communities. Both transportation processes are very costly. Egleé and Stanford continue:

“6. After international shipping to Caracas, we still must deliver the nets to the three communities. Only one, Betania de Topocho, can be reached by land transport. Iguana and Kayama are only accessible by air or literally weeks of walking, an impossible task in view of the quantity, volume and weight of the nets. The small planes that enter these isolated remote communities have limited cargo capacity. The plan now is that Egleé will be on the spot when the nets arrive and will dedicate her time to coordinate transportation and accompany the initial delivery flights. This will allow us to provide instruction and information regarding the proper use and care of the nets, in order to maximize their effectiveness and longevity, and to document receipt, which will help us track how well they reduce or stop malaria infection in the recipient communities. In addition, Oscar, the doctor who supports these communities, must travel with us to administer the most specialized antimalarial medicines that are being donated.

In sum, our plan is to proceed with the delivery of the nets and other supplies as quickly as funds permit, once the nets being shipped from Vietnam are safely inside the country."

We believe will need six (6) small plane flights to deliver all the nets and accompanying medication. The estimated cost of each flight is US $1,800-2,000. (Costs to the two communities are slightly different due to different distances from the airports, and in-country costs. Even costs measured in dollars are affected by ongoing inflation). We will cover the first two of those flights with the funds donated to date. Please help us get all the nets to all the families in need!

Thank you, each of you, for taking this project from a sure conviction that we must somehow help our friends of 20 years, to the reality of a tailored solution now heading for people’s homes from half a world away. To deliver all the nets, we need to nearly match the amount we have raised to date. As you make your year-end giving decisions, please think of us. On Giving Tuesday, 27 November 2018, GlobalGiving will again offer matching funds to increase the value of your donations!

 

Kayama community dispensary
Kayama community dispensary
Community medical visit at Iguana
Community medical visit at Iguana
Betania de Topocho clinic
Betania de Topocho clinic
 

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Organization Information

Global Diversity Foundation

Location: Bristol, VT - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Susannah McCandless
GDF International Program Director
Bristol, VT United States
$4,588 raised of $12,000 goal
 
58 donations
$7,412 to go
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