Written by Anna Hirt, an Education volunteer who serves in the Western Province of Rwanda
Ask most people in my community, as well as the surrounding area, and they’ll tell you, “malaria isn’t really that big of an issue here.” Sure, we live in a mountainous, region with a cool climate, and comparatively malaria isn’t as problematic as it is in other parts of the country, but 100% of the population is still at risk nationwide. Health center workers in my village are quick to correct the misconception that malaria isn’t sending them a lot of sick patients.
So last week I headed over to the health center to talk about malaria symptoms and prevention methods, and to demonstrate the proper way to wash and repair a long-lasting insecticide treated net (LLIN). Because 60-100 women come to get their babies vaccinated every Wednesday, the coordinator of my health center and I decided that this would be a good audience for my presentation, since pregnant women and children under five years old are high-risk groups for malaria.
I entered the annex where all the women were waiting feeling a bit nervous; public speaking has never been my strong suit, and I was facilitating this session in, Kinyarwanda, the local language of the community. The women were attentive and focused on my presentation, read my teaching aids, and participated. It was great.
I was able to correct a few common misunderstandings about net care and repair. With the success of this session I’ll have the opportunity to continue doing these presentations.
Most of my time is spent in school teaching, this was a great opportunity to work in a different capacity within the community and reinforce the importance of malaria prevention. Many organizations are doing malaria education programs in Rwanda but there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that the entire county is putting correct prevention methods into action. Not only is malaria causing a lot of death, it places an economic burden on a community and prevents productivity for those who are in school or working. Buhoro, buhoro – little by little – through education events like the one I organized last week, I hope people will join together to eradicate malaria from each community in Rwanda.