World Malaria Day - Stomping Out Malaria in Africa
Impromptu Malaria March
Today is World Malaria Day! According to WHO, 85% of Malaria cases and 90% of malaria deaths occur in Africa. Here in Alto, I have lost countless hours on projects to counterparts or a member of their family being sick with malaria. Fortunately, none of my close friends in Alto have lost family members to the disease while I’ve lived here, but a few had lost family members in the past.
I was feeling guilty about not planning any major events to create awareness and promote prevention and then it hit me. What resource in Mozambique is readily available, motivated and for all intents and purposes, unlimited? CRIANÇAS! Kids love marching around and screaming, so I figured we’d put their talents to some good use today. I hollered at Guebuza, my 9 year old neighbor and told him to grab some friends. We’re going on an impromptu Malaria March!
We started out with an intimidating crew of about 10, 5-9 year olds, and made our way down the hill, across the bridge, to the central market. All the way picking up a few kids here and losing a few kids there, but bringing it with some serious chanting. The main chants were:
“A Rede Mosquiteira!”
“A Mosquito Net!”
“We can prevent”
“A Rede Mosquiteira!”
After a brief stop at the central market to give an impromptu presentation about sleeping under a mosquito net, we made our way back across the bridge and half way up the giant hill before we had to take 5 in the shade. We continued on and as I thought we were reaching the end near my house, we picked up about 30 more primary school students and thus did an extra lap through the primary and secondary schools (definitely interrupted testing, worth it for Malaria Prevention!). We finished the march at my house where I passed out water and doces americanas, ”american sweets”. The sweets were actually raisins, my health police mother would be proud.
Often, I find that my favorite moments in Mozambique are the unplanned. At a minimum, I was able to put smiles on the faces of a bunch of crianças and taught them a bit about Malaria in the process. And hopefully, the local fofoca ”gossip” of the day will go a bit like this:
- “Did you see the American walking around with all those kids trapped in the mosquito net yelling about malaria?”
- “Yeah, probably the last thing I thought I’d see today! But I guess I should use the net I was given as a bed net instead of a fish catching device.. Malaria won’t affect my family!”
Peace Corps Burkina Faso’s Gender and Development Committee (GAD) recently held its first annual Women’s Health and Leadership Conference. The conference focused on gender empowerment, leadership, and common health issues faced by women in Burkina Faso.
Not too long ago, Margaret Banda’s daughter had a dangerous rendezvous with malaria. Her newborn twins waited at home for her as she was rushed to the hospital with a high fever. Since then, Margaret has completed ANAMED (Action for Natural Medicine) training. Here, she is pounding morgina leaves into a powder for cooking which is essential when battling disease and infection.
Peace Corps Health Volunteer Alisa Langfords shares with ONE a story about a young boy in her village for World Malaria Day
In the end, Justice was fine, but it turns out that he had contracted malaria. Malaria is a disease that kills nearly 650,000 people in Africa every year, most of them children under five. With limited immunities to the disease, young children are more likely to develop cerebral malaria, which can lead to severe developmental issues and even death.
But there are the “strong men” in my community who believe they have little to worry about. While Gifty and her family sleep under a bed net every night to protect against malaria, many people brush off its importance, saying it is too hot and they aren’t worried about malaria. After all, they’ve had it several times before, and they’ve survived.
But this is not always the case for the children. Many Ghanaians do not understand that if they are infected, a mosquito can bite them, and re-infect someone else, including someone vulnerable to malaria’s harsher effects. In short, Justice’s malaria came from somewhere, and it was probably an adult who didn’t use their net.
In honor of Malaria Month, 20 Peace Corps Volunteers from Sierra Leone rode their bicycles 55 miles, from Kamakwie to Panlap, as part of the Stomp Out Malaria Initiative. They stopped at villages along the way and did activities aimed at improving the villagers’ knowledge of malaria transmission, prevention, and treatment. To help spread the message, the volunteers wrote malaria-related slogans on white t-shirts.
Check out this video for the facts about malaria in Africa and the grassroots efforts of Peace Corps Volunteers to save lives in the communities where they serve.
Angelina comes running up after school yelling ‘Sister Johanna, Sister Johanna!’. I smile and can’t help laugh as she looks up at me in her faded school dress. She smiles the biggest smile you’ve ever seen and grabs a stack of nets to carry on her head to help. We’re in the middle of a net distribution as part of Ghana Health Service’s ‘Roll Out Campaign’.
As we distribute and hang net in every household, one per married couple and one for every two children, Angelina runs back and forth from where we store the nets, making the process go a little quicker. She’s one of my most favorite people in my village but her name can be deceiving. Asking for a coin to buy a water sachet because she’s thirsty, she comes back smacking on a piece of bubble gum. My counterpart George Atoanan and I try to scold her but end up laughing instead! Even though she’s devious, she our little helper for the day and puts a smile on our face.
I’ve visited with her family since the campaign and see that the treated mosquito nets are still hung and I can rest assured she’s sleeping safe every night. Because she’s healthy and malaria-free, she can continue to smile her mischievous smile every day.
- Peace Corps Health Volunteer Johanna Twiford
Collaborate. Share. Act. End it.
Happy World Malaria Day!
Working in Malaria prevention is important primarily, because the disease is comparatively simple to prevent and yet remains a leading cause of death throughout Africa and many other parts of the developing world. Through the proper use of bed nets, covering up exposed skin during evening hours, and removing/covering sources of standing water around your home diminish the mosquito population and therefore your chances of catching malaria.
From personal experience and living in Mozambique for the past 2 years, I can easily say that Malaria is one of the most diagnosed and treated cases at our local Hospital, and that all of my neighbors have been diagnosed or treated for malaria at some point in my service. I also say this while we are in the middle of our rainy season here in Mozambique, and already Malaria cases are beginning to skyrocket as the mosquito population begins to boom.
Peace Corps Volunteer Jason Hillis
Zambia, World Malaria Day 2012The National Malaria Control Centre organized mobile clinics around townships to screen, test, and treat people.The Peace Corps Stomp Out Malaria Coordinator Jane Coleman and a Linking Income and Food Environment Volunteer Laura Walls walked around with community health workers and their loud speakers, letting people know to come to the mobile clinic to get tested!Jane and Laura spent the rest of the morning with the patients and staff screening, testing and treating mothers, children under five and even some of their fathers.People were lined up around the clinic and many people went home with Coartem and will be happy and healthy for the month of May!
I’m starting to work on a Bed Net Distribution and Installation Campaign. My plan is have trainings/demonstrations to heads of households in the rural areas we visit on how to install the nets, then give them a net and check-sheet of how to do it and send them on their way. A week or so later we pop back in to inspect how it went. This plan is a bit stalled right now as we’re waiting for the seasonal shipment of nets to come in for distribution.
Until new nets are available, I have been working in the rural areas with a local Health Extension Worker on installations of preexisting nets. This means sewing up holes, attempting to reinstall crazily hung nets, and just trying to keep my chin up.
Peace Corps Volunteer Jean DeMarco