Marina Aman Sham (GEN Communications Coordinator) and Susannah McCandless (GEN Advisor) report on the successful delivery of nets impregnated with insecticide to remote Indigenous Venezuelan communities in Iguana, Kayama and Betania by Egleé Zent.
“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.
This report first appears as an update in the No one should die of malaria today project.