Ruth Ansah Ayisi shares her experiences from Mozambique.
Hundreds of people in different regions of Mozambique gathered to join in festivities marking Malaria Day, 9th November, for the countries of the Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC). The theme â€œLeadership and Partnership for Malaria Control and Economic Developmentâ€ is particularly pertinent for Mozambique, one of the worldâ€™s poorest countries whose economic development continues to be undermined by malaria and HIV/AIDS.
In the southern province of Maputo, the District Health Authorities in Moamba joined with partners like Malaria Consortium, the National Islamic Council and different cultural groups in what was a vibrant event. The event featured cultural and educational activities including traditional dances, educational songs and quizzes. Mosquito nets, T-shirts and caps with messages on malaria and HIV/AIDS were given out as prizes.
Ivete Meque, a doctor at the local hospital, explained how the IRS program is safe and kills mosquitoes. She introduced some of the sprayers and urged people to allow the â€œsprayersâ€ into their homes, since some people had refused, believing that IRS was ineffective.
Arminda Langa, a young volunteer who visits people sick with HIV/AIDS, stressed that people living with HIV/AIDS need to be extra careful to protect themselves against malaria. â€œI lost a woman who I visited two months ago,â€ Langa said. â€œShe was HIV positive, and had malaria. She had no mosquito net, because she could not afford one, and she died before the spraying began.â€
â€œSuch events are an important opportunity to transmit key messages to a large number of people at once through entertainment,â€ said Ali Mecusserima, a member of the National Islamic Council and president of Roll Back Malaria-Facilitatorâ€™s Group for Maputo province. He explained that â€œnow we talk about malaria prevention, tooâ€ in the mosques.
The SADC countries do have something to celebrate with Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland reporting major declines in malaria incidence. Zimbabwe also observed progress on Malaria Day toward meeting its malaria targets. Over 850,000 ITNs have been distributed by UNICEF there since 2004. In Namibia, Malaria Day corresponds with the start of the rainy season, and this year the country is appealing to citizens to take advantage of ITNBs, IRS and malaria treatment. Health education was also a key feature of Malaria Day in KwaZulu Natal. Again in Mozambique, UNICEF and health officials used Malaria Day to announce that, “A wide-ranging campaign to distribute over 500,000 mosquito nets is currently under way in 5 of Mozambiqueâ€™s 10 provinces.”
Malaria Day is a good opportunity for advocacy and education, and these activities need to continue throughout the year.