Stories from the first
Worldwide Service Project:
Fighting iodine deficiency one bicycle at a time
Guinea, West Africa: Nearly 8 million people live in Guinea, an arid country of dry coastal floodplains and inland mountains on the west coast of Africa. Here iodine deficiency is a major public health problem. Among school age kids, nearly 64 percent suffer from iodine deficiency. Soriba Cisse was one of 100 volunteer community health workers given bicycles by UNICEF to help them travel from village to village. The bicycle is a source of great pride to Soriba, as is the important work he is doing to fight iodine deficiency.
"The village designated me and I accepted, since it is for my community. I am proud of myself."
"My name is Soriba Cisse, I was born in Kowan Nafadyi, located 10 km from Tokonou sub district, which is about 500 km from Conakry, the capital city. I am a man and don't know exactly when I was born.
I did not go to school, but learned to write and read my name in my native language, which is Maninka. I first started working as community agent six years ago by distributing Ivermectin against onchoceriasis (river blindness). We were running many kilometers by foot to go to villages around Nafadyi. When UNICEF project arrived in Tokonou, messages were sent to the village's leaders to identify voluntary agents at village level for nutrition activities: weighing children. The village designated me and I accepted since it is for my community.
For this activity also, I did have to walk by foot between 10 to 20 km by feet to weigh children from 0 to 5 years old. Few months after, we had small training on how to assess iodine in iodized salt. With that activity we know now to identify non-iodized salt with women. The big success was that I got a new bicycle allowing me to go from village to another village for my activities. Besides, those bicycles make a difference between the other men in the village and me. It shows that I belong to a specified working group and I became close to health workers, since I can provide them with some information on iodized salt consumption and nutrition status of children within my community. I am proud of myself."