A group of Senegalese children sing a school song in their native French language. The message is simple – malaria is a bad disease.
It’s also a preventable and treatable disease that in 2010 still makes an estimated 300 million to 500 million people ill and kills nearly 1 million.
The disease is prevalent in 35 countries (30 in Sub-Saharan Africa and 5 in Asia). These countries account for 98 percent of global malaria deaths.
Malaria is a leading cause of death of young children in Africa; every 30 seconds, an African child dies of malaria.
African children know the risk and they know that education is key to preventing it. Like American school children, they learn songs and present skits to reinforce key messages. Equally important, the children share the messages with their parents and community leaders.
After they finish their song, which is shouted more than sung, they present a skit to their parents and community leaders who have gathered to see and hear what their children have been learning.
Some of the children are dressed in costumes. The shy ones stand off to the side, glad that they don’t have to act. The “doctor” wears a white cotton beard and a stethoscope. When the young girl visits, she complains of fever. The doctor asks if she is sleeping under a bed net.
“No,” she moans. Her moaning is so good, the audience smiles and laughs, but the message the children share is serious.
“Do you sleep near standing water” he asks.
She nods and moans more.
“Ah… you have malaria,” the young doctor says.
He sends her home with pills to treat the disease and with a treated bed net, which will keep out the mosquitoes while she sleeps. Mosquitoes that come into contact with the treated net will die.
The skit and song reinforce messages about preventing malaria:
- Use treated mosquito nets.
- Use insect repellents.
- Spray insecticides inside houses.
- Drain standing water where mosquitoes lay their eggs.