April 14, 2011

Cover Africa Camps Out for Malaria Awareness

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“Free pizza!” shouted members of Cover Africa, a student organization that raises money for and awareness about malaria prevention in the developing world, most notably sub-Saharan Africa.

Hoping to fundraise for bed nets and to educate the Cornell community, Cover Africa hosted its biannual sleep out from 4 p.m. Thursday to 2 p.m. Friday. The organization’s campground, on the Arts Quad, buzzed with activity Thursday evening as students drove tent stakes into the ground and a cappella groups sang.

“Every 30 seconds, a child dies from malaria,” said Ruth Boansi ’13, vice president of the group. She added that pregnant women and children are most likely to contract malaria.

Members of Cover Africa unfolded bed nets, a preventative measure in fighting malaria, for display. Each bed net costs approximately $10, and Cover Africa has donated money to purchasing them in the Ghana village of Humjibre.

The group sponsors an annual trip to an area affected by malaria. In the past, Cover Africa members have volunteered in Humjibre. In conjunction with Ghana Health Education Initiative, students address local health problems.

Gloria Appiah-Kubi ’13, club treasurer, emphasized her personal connection to this issue, since she caught malaria at an early age.

“For me, I’m from Ghana, and I didn’t live in a village, but I contracted malaria when I was younger,” she said. “It was bad; I was very sick. We used bed nets, but I still contracted it.”

“I’m pretty sure that everyone in my household — 11 people — had bed nets,” she said.

“Usually in the fall, we have a trip to Ghana,” Boansi said. “The bulk of work is malaria education and malaria prevention.”

But according to Joseph Agyei ’11, former co-president, Cover Africa has fulfilled its mission in Humjibre, and “we’re now not working in that village because we covered everyone with bed nets.” Cover Africa is currently searching for a new venture with a different organization.

“We want to change the program and make it more sustainable,” Agyei said.

Student participants spoke passionately about researching malaria and assisting with rural development. Ryan Hand ’13, who is studying medicine, joined Cover Africa after volunteering on a humanitarian mission in Africa to repair cleft palettes.

Unlike cleft palettes, malaria is relatively avoidable, sparking her further interest, she said.

“That’s when I got involved,” Hand said. “I loved the cause because it’s preventable, you can go to the roots and fix it before it happens.”

One prospective student visiting for Cornell Days, Sophie Rubashkin, was walking across the Arts Quad with her host when she saw Cover Africa’s camping tents.

“I’m so impressed by the dedication of Cornell students to their causes. This kind of passion in the student body will definitely factor into my decision,” she said.

President of Cover Africa Arthie Jeyakumar ’12, said she hoped the sleep out would raise awareness and appeal to her fellow Cornellians.

“Although malaria is not endemic in the United States — like with cancer — people have personal experiences. For us, it’s about awareness,” she said.

Cover Africa has hosted sleep outs to raise awareness about malaria prevention since its inception in 2006.

Original Author: Max Schindler