Monday, April 20, 2009

Educating villagers about malaria

One of the biggest obstacles to overcome in fighting malaria is lack of education. Many people who are affected by the disease don't know how it is spread and how to treat it.

From All Africa we find this story about malaria education. Students from Makerere University in Uganda encountered a lot of misconceptions when they worked to a small village.

In June and July 2007, medical students spent six weeks in Mifumi village in Tororo, eastern Uganda, listening to what villagers knew about malaria after which they designed an educational programme to fill gaps in the people's knowledge.

The students, who presented their findings in a video conference with the U.S National Library of Medicine (NLM) and Fogarty International Centre, learned that the villagers' ideas about malaria are neither correct nor incorrect.

Responses like; "Mangoes cause malaria in this village, "When I eat mangoes I get sick," were very common.

This was an indication that people had not received correct information on how malaria spreads. However, the researchers learnt that the villagers were not far from the

truth, because during the rainy season when mangoes are in plenty, malaria cases increase because mosquitoes breed around the bushes, in broken bottles, containers and swamps.

"When people in these places get bitten by mosquitoes, they attribute the attack of malaria to mangoes," said William Lubega, one of the researchers.

Lack of medical advice

Researchers were stunned to learn that locals think malaria is caused by witchcraft or bad spirits. Similarly, most villagers do not seek medical advice due to ignorance.

"When one is suffering from malaria in that village, the pain may subside for some time even when they have not visited a health centre.

But the malaria germ (plasmodium) remains in the body, causing the victim to succumb to the disease again," Lubega said.

They also discovered that there was a link between malaria and diarrhoea in Mifumi village due to absence of a protected water source in the area.

The people share wells with animals and lack basic knowledge about personal hygiene. Another problem encountered was misuse of anti-malaria drugs.

According to Brian Sseruyombya, a pharmacy student, the people had tried various drugs and had given up visiting health centres because it made no difference.

"The majority of the people had not completed their doses while others used over-the-counter drugs and practiced self medication, especially taking Panadol, a pain killer," he said.

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