Knowledge is Power in the Fight against Malaria
By Michelle Scott*
November 18, 2008—Magan Ekoua smiles as her young children take an afternoon nap in the blue glow cast by their new mosquito net. "The net lasts five years-it will be good for my children in the long run," she says quietly as her children sleep. The net creates a barrier between her sleeping children and the malaria-causing mosquitoes. It is treated with a long-lasting insecticide that provides additional protection, lasting five years.
The day before, Magan stood for four hours in the hot West African sun to have her three children vaccinated against measles, receive a vitamin A supplement and de-worming treatments as well as the mosquito net-all for free. This is part of a national vaccination campaign throughout Côte d'Ivoire that took place Nov. 10-15, 2008.
Knowledge and Nets
Along with the mosquito net, Magan and the tens of thousands of parents like her learned some malaria basics from the United Methodist Committee on Relief-trained volunteers from the United Methodist Church of Côte d'Ivoire and Texas. Volunteers taught parents how to hang and use the net, how malaria is spread and how to take simple steps to reduce the number of mosquitoes in and around the home.
These are important lessons in a region where there are common misconceptions about malaria, including that it is caused by too much sun exposure, consuming palm oil and witchcraft.
Providing communities with information about this deadly disease and how it can be prevented and treated is how the battle of malaria can be fought-and won-home by home, community by community all across Africa.
Equipping the Community
UMCOR's train the trainer program started with just 50 volunteers from the Côte d'Ivoire Annual Conference who in turn trained individuals from their districts. By the time the campaign began, approximately 800 Ivorian volunteers were equipped to not only pass along important malaria information to families during the five-day vaccination campaign, but also to their families and communities and who ever else is willing to listen about ways to prevent this disease that kills a child every 30 seconds.
The program includes people like Sabine Aboo in Adiaké, a United Methodist volunteer. A few years ago she had a serious bout of malaria that eventually landed her in the hospital because she was misinformed about how to take her malaria medication. "I am volunteering because by doing this I am serving God," Sabine says.
All day, she patiently sits on the porch of the local clinic, soothing crying children and telling their mothers or fathers how they can build a healthier future for their children by taking a few simple steps to prevent malaria.
She shares what she learned during UMCOR's training program: that malaria is caused by mosquitoes that bite at night, how to hang and use the net, the importance of removing stagnant water in and around the home and other simple things the family can do to prevent malaria.
This largest mosquito net distribution to take place in Côte d'Ivoire is a result of a dynamic partnership between The United Methodist Church of Côte d'Ivoire, The Texas Annual Conference, The United Nations Foundation, United Methodist Communications and UMCOR.
How You Can Help
Help spread the word about malaria prevention and treatment throughout Africa by giving to the Community-Based Malaria Control Program which provides education, medication and nets through United Methodist hospitals and clinics in Côte d'Ivoire and beyond. Give to Malaria Control, UMCOR Advance #982009.
* Michelle Scott is executive secretary of communications for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).