Stopping the Sting of Malaria

Compassion Enlists Help of Children to Fight Deadly Disease

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By Compassion International, Christian Post Guest Contributor
November 19, 2008|4:43 pm

Angelina skips down the street, the broom in her hand stirring up a cloud of dust behind her.

As she nears the Aboma Presby Child Development Center (GH-403), other children join her.

Some hold shovels while others push rusty wheelbarrows.

At the center, Angelina stretches her arms high above her head, sweeping her broom across the gutters along the front of the building.

Another child scoops up clumps of mud and leaves, tossing them into a bucket.

The children work efficiently for they know when they are finished, they will have more than a clean school yard.

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They will have reduced their chances of getting malaria by cleaning up areas where the disease-carrying mosquitoes thrive.

Thanks to the support of Compassion’s Malaria Intervention program, the children have learned how to help prevent the disease and that they can get treatment — an option few families can afford.

MALARIA PREYS ON POOR

Every year, more than 3.5 million people contract malaria in Ghana. According to UNICEF, more than 20,000 children in this country die every year of this preventable, treatable disease.

Angelina, 9, once had it.

"When I had malaria, I felt very sick," Angelina says. "I could not eat my food, my body was very hot, and my head was aching. I could not go to school or church."

Families in poverty are the most susceptible to malaria. "This is due to a number of factors," explains Rose Nyarko-Dokyi, health specialist for Compassion Ghana.

"Most of these people live in very bad houses without properly fitting doors or windows. That allows the mosquitoes to come in, and those carry the parasite that causes malaria. They also have puddles of stagnant water around their homes where the bugs will breed and increase."

PREVENTION IN ACTION

To educate children and parents about preventing malaria, the center workers schedule regular workdays at the church where Compassion's child development program activities take place.

Children bring their tools and clean murky water out of gutters and fill in puddles with dirt. Then they go home and clean the tiny, dusty yards around their houses, teaching their parents how to destroy mosquito breeding grounds.

"At home, I show my family how to keep things clean," says Angelina. "I make sure every night that we don't have any water in containers outside so the mosquitoes can't live there."

Just as poverty aids in the spread of malaria, it's as much an obstacle to treatment. Before Angelina was registered at the center, her parents could not afford to take her to a doctor.

When she was delirious with fever, all her mother could do was helplessly dab her burning face with a cool cloth.

"Many of the parents do not even know what to do when their child has a temperature," says Jemima Odotei, a social worker at Angelina's center.

"There was a day a mother came running to our office carrying her son. The boy was so hot to the touch. We quickly gave him first aid and rushed him to the hospital. He could have easily died because his mother didn't know what to do."

HALTING MALARIA

Thanks to Compassion’s Malaria Intervention program, Angelina's mother, along with hundreds of other parents, now have valuable tools to prevent and treat the disease.

A bright blue mosquito net is draped over Angelina's bed. And if the girl does get sick, her mother can take her to the hospital through the support of her sponsor and the Malaria Intervention Fund Malaria Intervention Fund.

With all of the education and resources we have been able to offer, we have seen a marked change in the lives of our children," says Rose, the Ghana Health Specialist.

"Malaria is a very powerful killer here in our country. But the work we are doing with parents and children is changing that."

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Compassion is a global holistic child development ministry that is Christ centered, child focused, church based and committed to integrity. Since 1952, Compassion has touched the lives of more than one million children. For information on Compassion International, visit www.compassion.com
 

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