Iron chef challenge: You have ten minutes at flag ceremony (morning assembly) to explain malaria prevention to 250 primary school kids in a foreign language with three bed nets, four teachers, and a poster. Secret ingredient: two mosquito cutouts.
Thursday, April 25th, was World Malaria Day. This whole month is Blog About Malaria Month. But the kids don’t care about that, they want to play in the nets.
So how do you get the attention of 250 children in grades 1-8, aged anywhere from 5 years old to 18? Let them play in the nets.
After a brief explanation of the number one disease in North Gondar Zone, and how you get it, we moved straight to prevention. Clock is ticking chef!
The cheapest and easiest way to prevent malaria is to sleep under a bed net. If you have a large family, give preference to pregnant women and young children. But just having a net in your home is not enough.
Choosing three volunteers, I chased them around with a mosquito cutout. Pro tip: It’s always a good play to make a fool of yourself. This kid below was given a bed net but told not to use it, like many families who leave them unopened.
Nets are distributed every three years in this zone, but only to low-lying areas. With global warming, the mosquitoes have started to move higher, to areas not officially deemed “malaria zones.” The misconception still exists that highland areas in Gondar, even a few feet of difference up the mountain, means you won’t get sick.
The second kid was given an opened package, but wrapped himself up like a mummy. So you have a net, but if it’s not hung properly it’s not going to do any good. Sleeping with skin next to a net, the mosquito can still bite through the holes. He found that out the fun way.
This clever girl had her teachers “hang” the net up properly. My mosquito wasn’t able to get her.
Time’s almost up chef! Bring in your backup… aka the school director who can translate my bad grammar into something coherent.
Phew! There you have it, malaria prevention in ten minutes. But it didn’t stop there, later I co-opted an English class (cross sector learning!) and at the end of the day the biology teacher said he had the kids labeling the parts of the mosquito, using the World Malaria Day theme for science education.
So while doing a bit of malaria prevention awareness for the kids I was able to practice my Amharic, model some active teaching, and motivate other teachers. Not too shabby, chef.