Sharing knowledge and saving lives on World Malaria Day
43% of people at risk of malaria are not protected even by low cost solutions, so this World Malaria Day, the World Health Organisation is placing a special focus on prevention.
In countries like Uganda, Malawi and India, our women’s groups are raising widespread awareness of the disease. Communities are learning how to prevent mosquitos from settling around their homes, families are encouraged to utilize insecticide-treated mosquito nets and expectant mothers are increasingly accessing intermittent antimalarial treatment during pregnancy.
The work women’s groups do around the issue of malaria is three-fold: communities are given information about cost-effective solutions to prevent the disease, and are encouraged to implement them around their homes. Group members likewise learn about the symptoms of malaria, enabling them to identify the disease themselves, among their families or members of the community. Finally, women’s group discuss the benefits of seeking professional healthcare during pregnancy, and expectant mothers are encouraged to seek antenatal care, as well as access preventative antimalarial treatment.
Joyce Aikidi is a member of the Ripelonyo women’s group in the Kitgum district of Northern Uganda. Malaria is very common in Mede, the village where she lives, so her women’s group discuss this topic at length. The women have shared a lot of information about how the disease is spread, and how to prevent mosquitos from reproducing near their homes. What’s more, Joyce affirms that when you walk around Mede Village, she can easily spot the homes of group members, proudly stating that “our homes are usually clean, well swept, with no bushes near the house”.
Jackline Ajok is a member of the Pit-Tek Kimonyi women’s group, in the Gulu district in Northern Uganda. Like Joyce, Jackline’s group also share information and solutions surrounding malaria, as it represents a key health concern in her village. Through the women’s group, Jackline obtained crucial information for preventing the disease and keeping her family safe: “We used to suffer from malaria and other diseases a lot because our homesteads were not clean. We did not know that if we did not clear bushes around our homes mosquitos would breed near our homes and cause malaria.” These simple solutions help keep mosquito populations at bay, and can help protect the whole community from the disease.
The women’s group also provides hand-on support to the community, as Joyce shared that “We ensured all group members have mosquito nets - especially for the young children. We do home visits to check whether nets are put up correctly and we teach those who do not know how to hang their nets properly.” The women’s groups in the region likewise carry out dramatisations to show how nets should be hung up, sharing knowledge and raising the awareness among the whole community.
Women and Children First has been working with its partner Amref Health Africa in northern Uganda since June 2014. The project, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, has helped establish 150 women’s groups, reaching approximately 15,000 women and their families.