Spreading Awareness about Malaria

Malaria is one of the biggest health challenges here in Liberia. It’s the leading cause of death in Liberia and young children and pregnant women are at an even higher risk than the rest of the population. (Some statistics are in this post that I shared last year.) But malaria is preventable! So we’re working to spread the word about the importance of sleeping under mosquito nets and getting testing and treatment when you’re sick.

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Back in March, volunteers from Peace Corps Liberia’s malaria committee put on a workshop about how to spread awareness about the disease. We were encouraged to invite both an education and a health counterpart from our communities, so I attended along with the junior high science teacher from my school, Chris, and my good friend from my neighborhood, Patience, who is studying at university to be a nurse.

We spent the first two days of the training learning about malaria: We talked about how you can get malaria – from a parasite transmitted to humans when bitten by a female mosquito carrying the parasite. We learned about how to prevent malaria (sleep under a mosquito net!) and what to do if you think you have it (get tested at the local clinic). We learned about the increased risks for pregnant women (or in Liberian English “big belly women”). Then we discussed techniques to raise awareness in our own communities and were given tools to teach about malaria.

On the last day, we got the chance to practice teaching at a nearby school! We had a few hours to prepare the evening before and then taught four different lessons to a 7th grade class. Using interactive posters, we taught about the biological transmission of malaria, the importance of testing and treating, “Big Belly Ma” malaria and the economic impact of getting malaria. It was great working with Chris and Patience! They jumped right in and were more than willing to put in the practice time to make sure we were prepared.

Their enthusiasm didn’t stop when the workshop finished either! Since going back to our community, Patience has been having conversations with people all around the neighborhood, emphasizing the importance of sleeping under a bed net. Plus Chris and I have already held a few sessions with the junior high health club at our school. We’re hoping to also do some lessons with another school in our community as well before the end of the school year.

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Malaria Session with my school’s health club

In partnering with Patience and Chris, I’ve seen the importance of finding passionate counterparts. On top of their enthusiasm, as local members of the community, they have a bigger network of people to reach out to and know how to communicate information in a way that is most effective in Liberia. Plus people are often less likely to listen when the message comes from me as an outsider, so they bring credibility to our work. I feel so lucky to be able to work with them!