“I now understand why it is important to sleep in a net every night,” explains a 10 year old student at Majenjo Primary School in Soroti district in eastern Uganda.
Why so much focus on malaria in the already-packed school curriculum? “Mr. Okoyi James Peter, the head teacher of Majengo primary school, explains, “Malaria is the leading cause of absenteeism in this school and this affects the performance of the pupils and the school as a whole.”
Stop malaria in your community is a campaign by the Stop Malaria Project (SMP), which is funded by the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and implemented by the Center for Communication Programs in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health. The goal of the campaign is to help institutions at the community level become malaria free.
The Stop Malaria Project aids schools and community groups in developing simple action plans to send out messages about the importance of sleeping under a net every night, seeking early treatment for fevers, preventing malaria during pregnancy and involving men in preventing malaria.
“This campaign will encourage the pupils to know that they have a role to play in preventing malaria,” says Mr. Okoyi about the project’s approach to have the pupils carry home the messages they have learnt from their teachers and fellow pupils.
The community-based malaria initiative supports two of the broader SMP program components: net distribution and improvement of access to and quality of malaria prevention among pregnant women.
In the last two years of implementation, Stop Malaria Project and its partners have distributed nearly 3 million nets in 13 districts and have trained nearly 670 health workers in 23 districts to prevent malaria during pregnancy (Intermittent Preventive Treatment in pregnancy (IPTp). These interventions have contributed to an increase in the national coverage of IPTp which is now estimated at 32% (MIS 2009) compared to the baseline of 16% (UDHS 2006).
“The messages on prevention of malaria will reach the parents of the pupils and this will protect the whole community from malaria, and therefore, reducing costs spent on treatment,” asserts Lois Kateebire, SMP community mobilization specialist.
By involving pupils in the fight against malaria, they are being equipped with knowledge that goes beyond a science lesson. The students are learning that their actions can save lives. Or as explained by the children about Mr. Mosquito and his deadly wife: “To prevent my wife from visiting you, sleep under treated mosquito nets and seek medical treatment within 24 hours, and for the pregnant mothers, take an anti-malaria drug. And with these, I shall be no more.”
Learn more about the Stop Malaria Project.