Three year old Bonita Gomes’s life hangs in the balance. Her frail body has been attacked by malaria and she is now in a coma. Her mother, anxious about her high fever, took her 30 kilometers on the back of a motorbike to the nearest health post in the middle of the night. A rapid blood test indicated she has severe malaria with complications. Quickly referred to the hospital, she was given a blood transfusion and put on quinine.
Luisa Cumba: There is no doubt that malaria represents a significant health burden in the province of Tete because it remains the first cause of consultation, first cause of hospitalization and first cause of mortality particularly amongst children aged between zero and five years old.
Kyle O’Donogue: In Mozambique, a third of all children die from malaria and it is the largest single killer of children under five in the country. In Tete provinces newly renovated hospital, the Out Patient Board is busy. On average, the small lab unit does 60 to 70 blood tests a day. Malaria is a scourge in many parts of Africa not only leading to death but also crippling productivity and contributing to poverty.
In the last few years, an aggressive strategy led by the ministry of health and with support from partners like the European Union, UNICEF and the Global Fund has been introduced to prevent its deadly impact.
Aida Olimpio is six month pregnant and has arrived for her antenatal consultation. It is taken her a days walk to reach the rural clinic in Chiuta district. While she waits for her consultation, an education session is conducted on the virtues of sleeping under a long lasting impregnated mosquito net. Having lost her first child from fever, she pays close attention.
After the examination, Aida is given Fansidar, a prophylactic that helps to fend off the disease, iron tablets to help prevent anemia and a new net to take home with her. It should protect her and her unborn child for the next five years. So far the focus has been on giving nets to those most at risk, pregnant women, children under five and those living with HIV, but with the success already demonstrating that nets work, the government is starting an ambitious plan to roll out nets to everyone.
In Kaunda district, the scorching heat does not deter the thousands of people who wait patiently in the hot sun to receive a net. Over 10 days, 30,000 will be distributed. The team from the ministry of health has spent months planning how to best distribute nets to every household. Going door to door, they have calculated how many nets are needed for each family.
Barbara Kerstiens: We as the European commission think that prevention especially of malaria is important. It’s feasible if people understand how serious the illness is and then understand that by sleeping under a mosquito net, they can prevent becoming ill and thus prevents cost to the family, death of a child, death of a pregnant woman.
Kyle O’Donogue: The success of Mozambique’s malaria strategy is already leading to concrete results. In the last year alone in Tete Province, they estimate the number of cases has dropped by almost 70% and death by almost 90%.
Four day old Anna sleeping peacefully, the mosquito net is her guardian angel giving her the opportunity to survive the next few critical years to grow up healthy and strong.
This is Kyle O'Donogue reporting for UNICEF, Unite for Children.