I’m pretty sure my previous posts have updated y’all on how fanatic I am about my mosquito net. It’s my little wall of protection from all that goes buzz in the night. Unfortunately not everyone realizes the awe-inspiring power that it is. People here die every day from malaria; it’s the number one killer in Africa. The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) work continuously to distribute nets, but the number of people actually using them is still too low. And that’s unfortunate, because one child dies every 45 seconds from a disease that could be prevented.
I did a training yesterday with a group of students about malaria and bed net usage. All of the students reported having bed nets, but less than half raised their hands to say they use them. We made a poster both in English and Amharic to highlight six important facts about malaria, and read them each aloud.
1. Malaria is a preventable disease that can kill you.
2. Malaria is transmitted by a specific type of mosquito that primarily bites at night.
3. Malaria symptoms are: fever, headache, chills, vomiting and other flu-like symptoms.
4. Malaria should be treated at the health center immediately.
5. Mosquito nets prevent malaria.
6. Everyone should sleep under a mosquito net, every night, all year long.
Afterwards we had a discussion and answered questions. One girl asked me about malaria in America. I told her–with the utmost encouragement–that malaria used to be a problem there, but it was eliminated through the use of bed nets, medicines and insecticides. We can do the same in Africa, if everyone takes part.
I asked them again how many will use their bed nets and almost everyone raised their hands. (The others requested help, and we planned a follow-up training on how to hang a net.) Wiping out malaria is a large and overwhelming ambition. But if even one of these kids decides to sleep under a mosquito net tonight, we’re making progress.
April 25 is World Malaria Day. Celebrate. Spread the word.