When Stephanie Gaffney finished Pre-Service Training she thought that she would focus on AIDS reduction in her community. ¬†After conducting a village situational analysis, she discovered that malaria was a bigger health problem facing her community, so she redirected her energy to suit the community needs.
Mathayo Msosa is a local farmer and serves as a Community Change Agent. ¬†Msosa has been working since 2008 to educate the 10 villages of Mnavira Ward about malaria prevention and treatment. ¬†Mathayo and Stephanie met a couple weeks before they attend the Mtwara Regional Malaria Training from April 16-19. ¬†They discovered that by working together they could mobilize their communities to fight malaria.
To commemorate World Malaria Day, Stephanie and Mathayo visited a local primary school to talk about malaria and make Dream Banners with the students. Dream Banners, an activity created by Malaria No More, is one way that Peace Corps Volunteers are engaging their community members in malaria discussions and awareness and encouraging young children to sleep under a long-lasting insecticide treated bednet (LLIN). ¬†The students talked about their future ambitions and drew pictures of their dreams. ¬†After her students drew their Dream Banners, Stephanie explained how preventing malaria helps students stay healthy to go to school and work hard to accomplish their dreams.
Students also played a malaria-themed game of ‚Äúsharks and minnows‚ÄĚ. Afterwards, Stephanie and Mathayo led a discussion with 98 students standards 2-7 about malaria transmission and the importance of every family member sleeping under an insecticide treated net every night.
They continued the discussion with 47 students of Stephanie‚Äôs after-school English class (standards 3-7) about net usage and reasons for not sleeping under bednets. During this discussion, Stephanie and Mathayo learned that 20 students sleep under a LLIN every night, 6 students use nets sometimes, and 21 never sleep under bednets. ¬†From their group discussion, Mathayo and Stepahie learned about the various reasons why some students don‚Äôt sleep under LLINs. Some students noted that some nets were old or had holes in them and, thus, thought that they were not effective. The lack of mosquito nets for each sleep space was also raised. With a limited number of nets, families have to decide who gets to sleep under net each night. Often times, students are not the ones to receive the net.
The students enjoyed the malaria day activities and discussion and Stephanie and Mathayo learned a lot about net usage among students. At the end of the day, the students brought their banners home to share ¬†their dreams and the importance of malaria prevention with their families. Stephanie and Mathayo are currently exploring avenues to obtain LLINs for their community to reach universal coverage.