Fighting malaria in the classroom

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Fernando Bambo is Malaria Consortium’s Communications and Advocacy Coordinator in Mozambique

One of the most interesting aspects of working at Malaria Consortium for me is tracking its progression over time. It was in December 2005 that I joined the organisation, as Deputy Coordinator of the demand creation component of the project for Sustainable Distribution Systems of LLINs, funded by the UK Government.

This innovative project, initially implemented in Inhambane province in Mozambique and subsequently expanded to Nampula and Cabo Delgado, rested on three pillars. These were:

1)      The free distribution of LLINs to pregnant women at public antenatal care clinics;

2)      Support for the commercial sector to develop a market for mosquito nets that were affordable for all socio-economic groups;

3)      Demand creation for mosquito nets through communication activities, as well as the promotion of proper nets’ use and care.

The communication component had a huge impact on creating demand for mosquito nets in both the public and private sectors. At the time, LLINs were still a novelty in Mozambique, and we all had a lot to learn in almost all areas of implementation. One of our achievements was the development of a communication strategy to promote LLINs using the COMBI approach (Communication for Behavioural Impact) whose principles have since been incorporated in the National Communication Strategy and Advocacy for Malaria (2013-2017).

COMBI was the strategy that gave rise to the popular interactive radio programme ‘MozzzKito.’ In addition to MozzzKito, we also developed a new tool, the “net hat”:  this was an exercise and games worksheet specifically designed for primary school children to help them learn about malaria in a fun way.  The ‘hat’ consisted of a poster with six learning exercises and games, including brain teasers, and “malariamática” (math on malaria). With support from teachers, children solved the exercises in the classroom and afterwards folded the poster into a ‘hat’ with the message – “I am protected, sleeping under a net.” This symbolised the participation of children in the fight against malaria.

Upon leaving the classroom, the children went out onto the street in groups showing their hats, and interacting with the community about malaria. At home, the children read the poster aloud to their parents, and in the end, the parents signed a paper that indicated that they had seen the poster. Finally the children took the “hat” back to school and gave it to the teacher.

Even today, I still think of those earlier projects and look at how far we have come as an organisation. Since I first joined, each project has built on experiences from the last – in this way we have improved our work and generated new ideas. Currently, Malaria Consortium is working on the Malaria Prevention and Control Project – a project that I am a part of. The project aims at engaging communities in defeating malaria through school activities, radio programmes, and capacity building of community-based organisations in conducting behaviour change communication activities. The lessons learned and the accumulated experiences all contribute to better and healthier lives.