In October/November 2007, Jean Legastelois and myself were given a wonderful opportunity to visit Togo and The Gambia to see how the Self Assessment methodology had been adapted to deal with malaria. Blaise Sedoh of the Togolese Red Cross showed us what had been done over the length and breadth of Togo and Adam Jagne Sonko, Programme Manager, National Malaria Control Programme showed us the work done in The Gambia.
The short answer we found is that amazing work has been done and is being done in both countries. We have been working on the material that we have collected in both countries and I think that there are many lessons for us to learn from what his going on in these 2 countries.
But here is one idea that I would be interested to hear views about. I once did a project in the world of marketing. One of the phrases that they use is 'The Unique Selling Proposition'. So what are we really offering? And the contrast between the world of AIDS Competence and Malaria Competence was for me striking.
For AIDS, our proposition is AIDS Competence. For malaria, what I saw was an astonishly powerful proposition. Malaria Competence says to women in communities that if you pursue the practices of Malaria Competence diligently the following will not happen:
your daughters will not die during their pregancy
your children and your grandchildren will not die before the age of 5 of malaria
your daughters will not miscarry during their pregancy.
We listened to one head of a village say that for 2 years no child had died in the village. Before that, about 5 children would die each year during the rainy season. A lot of things were happening, but one essential aspect was that the women in the community truly owned this issue.
You could feel the determination of women to take action. There was nothing on this earth that was going to stop these women taking action to save the lives of their children and grandchildren. Very simply stated there was ownership of this problem to an extent that I had never seen before.
Now the problems of malaria are not the problems of HIV/AIDS, but I wonder how we could begin to craft a 'selling propostion' for AIDS Competence that had the characteristics that we saw for malaria.
So in the world of AIDS Competence, what are we really offering to people?