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!”