“Our main purpose is to educate communities about malaria – its effects, how it is transmitted and how to avoid it.” Mugoya Muzamir is one of over two thousand community members in Mbale who has been trained as part of the Mbale Malaria Control project.
Malaria is the most common cause of illness and death in children in Mbale district and, in 2011, at the start of the Mbale Malaria Control Project, the district had the highest malaria burden in Uganda. Now that Mugoya has been trained in malaria case management, it is his responsibility to communicate how to prevent malaria transmission to the communities throughout Mbale. One of the most effective ways of doing this, he has found, is through performance and drama.
Mugoya, and 24 other village health workers (VHTs) trained as part of the project, now travel from community to community, performing dramas that teach how to avoid getting malaria. When I met Mugoya, he told me this was an effective way of communicating to a wide range of people: “When you do something funny, many people will come.”
The method has been successful in conveying messages to people throughout Mbale. Community members told me their families had learnt the importance of sleeping under a mosquito net and that they now clear any stagnant water near their villages. The dramas also include messages of when to contact a VHT, and how to recognise a case of severe malaria.
“When you move round the communities, you notice there has been a change. We have seen that the number of malaria cases has fallen. Last month there was one case of malaria, whereas three months ago there were 27 cases of malaria in that month, so people are picking up on our messages.”
You can check out photos of the drama performance below:
The drama group begins by playing songs, all of them about preventing malaria, in order to attract a crowd.
The community starts to gather in anticipation of one of the drama performances.
One of the actors, who is playing a nurse, waits for her cue to join the performance.
Many children attend these events, and they are encouraged to take notes on how to prevent malaria transmission.
The performances use different characters and humour to keep the community engaged, while teaching them how to prevent the spread of malaria.
Mugoya Muzamir, one of the VHTs trained as part of the project, shows some of the messages they will be teaching in their performance: how to spot symptoms of malaria in pregnancy.
One of the core messages of the drama performances is conveying the importance of sleeping under mosquito nets. Here, the actors show how a net should be hung.
Community members, and in particular the young children, watch as the performers teach them how to hang a mosquito net before going to sleep.
The communities create murals and paintings demonstrating what they have learnt. This is a painting that was on display in the village, demonstrating mosquito net use, keeping stagnant water away from the village and showing the benefits of the boda boda hospital referral system.
The performance teaches the community about severe malaria, and how to contact a boda boda driver if someone is suffering from severe malaria.
Mugoya shows how to pay for a boda boda driver by completing a payment coupon, to be cashed in at the hospital.
The performances show community members how to spot the symptoms of severe malaria.
...And the performers also demonstrate how a child is treated for severe malaria, once they arrive at a district health centre.
A portrayal of family life during the performances also demonstrates preventive behaviour to audiences. Here, a family discusses keeping their house and village clean and getting rid of stagnant water.
Mugoya, acting in the role of a doctor, then emphasises how to prevent malaria being transmitted.
The performers act out various symptoms of severe malaria.
Finally, the drama group uses songs to educate people on how to identify, treat and prevent malaria.
VHTs and drama group members pose at the end of their latest performance.
Children make notes as the performance winds down.
Patrick Lee is Communications Assistant at Malaria Consortium in London.