Sunday, 1 May 2011

MALARIA: Kenya: How scouts are helping in the fight against malaria

Twelve-year-old Aisha Ali really is a well prepared scout. True to the motto of the Scouting movement – 'be prepared' - she is one of more than 21,000 scouts from over 1,000 schools in Kenya who are taking part in a project aimed at preventing the spread of malaria.
"I've always wanted to help others, so joining my school's scouting club gave me great pride." says Aisha.
"When this project was introduced in January 2010, I was very excited at the opportunity to serve my community."
Supported by UK's Department for International Development (DFID) and undertaken in partnership with the Government of Kenya's Division of Malaria Control, the Kenya Scouts Association and Population Services International (PSI) Kenya, the project aims to save the lives of Kenyans living in 36 malaria-prone districts by ensuring people sleep inside well tucked-in, insecticide treated mosquito nets every night, the whole year round.

Members of Kenya Scout clubs in the affected districts 'adopted' some 150,000 homes - equivalent to around 675,000 people - to teach them how to properly hang and use bednets, to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Aisha says 20 scouts from her school were trained about malaria; what causes it, how one can get it and how nets help prevent the spread of the disease. They were also trained on how to hang the mosquito bednets and the importance of sleeping under the nets each night.
"This is where we play an important role in malaria prevention – making sure that everyone in our communities sleeps under a net every night," says Aisha.
Each scout in the scheme is issued with a project booklet containing questions that help them to record how many people live in a home and how many of them sleep under a treated mosquito net.
The scouts are trained to ask to see the sleeping area and ensure the bednets are hung properly. They also show members of each homestead how to hang the nets correctly themselves.
"We were expected to adopt between seven and ten homes and visit them at least once a month to ensure that all the members of the households slept under a net."
One of the homes that Aisha has adopted is that of 'Mama' Hadija Hassan Mwabaha, an elderly widow who lives with four other elderly widows. Aisha recounts how she met Hadija. "I remember the first day I visited Mama Hadija. She is a clever woman and asked me a lot of questions about malaria. I told her about the anopheles mosquito. She was impressed by my knowledge and agreed to be part of our scout's project".
"I showed Mama Hadija how to hang up their nets correctly so that they are not bitten by mosquitoes. I also informed her that pregnant women and children younger than five years are at greatest risk from malaria. I have visited her every month since the first meeting. I like her because not only is she welcoming but she helps me with the project. She is a poor woman but has a very kind heart."
And Mama Hadija has equally good things to say of Aisha. "She has protected us from malaria!" she exclaims.
She goes on to explain that the program has helped to explain the dangers of malaria to the whole community and the importance of everyone using the nets every night.

Serving the community
The whole experience has been very motivating to Aisha: "I am serving my community and that makes me very happy," she says. She also has a certificate of merit from the training, is more enlightened about malaria issues, feels empowered to assist others and is glad that the training has boosted her ranking as a scout.
"When I know that I have helped prevent one more malaria case I feel so proud of my efforts," she concludes with a smile.
Of the ten households that Aisha adopted in January, nine already had the insecticide-treated nets. However not all the homes were using them correctly; over the course of the year, Aisha has assisted her adopted homes to ensure the consistent and proper use of mosquito nets.

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