Credit: Maureen Cherongis
Monica Achieng (left) learns about malaria prevention from Community Health Volunteer Rose Mango
David Owour was only four months old when his mother went abroad and left him in the hands of his grandmother, Monica Achieng – a strong energetic woman in her late fifties who, against all odds, struggled to keep her grandson healthy.
Life has not been a bed of roses for Monica and her grandson. Having lost her husband some years back, Monica became the bread winner of her family, including her 82-year-old mother who lives a stone’s throw away from Monica’s house.
Monica vividly recalls the sleepless nights she had to go through when David and her mother had malaria. “I took them to Uriri Health Centre and they were diagnosed with malaria. I thought I was be-witched. I was overwhelmed as I had to take care of two patients at the same time,” says Monica. She had to take up this routine on numerous occasions as malaria seemed to be their frequent but unwelcomed visitor.
Monica, who is a farmer, sells tomatoes and onions just outside her house. However, every time her family got sick, she had to stop her farming activities to take care of them.
“It was a very difficult time for me and my family as I exhausted all my resources and I wasn’t working. Even though I was living a nightmare, I had to take care of them,” says Monica.
Thanks to Rose Mango, the Community Health Volunteer in charge of the village, the rate of infection of malaria has since gone down. Through strategies put in place by Amref Health Africa in Kenya through support from The Global Fund, the community members received treated mosquito nets and were also well advised on other measures to prevent and treat malaria.
“My life has improved ever since I knew Rose. Truthfully, I was not using any mosquito nets before, but Rose told us the importance of the nets and even went further and brought them for us. She also convinced my mother to take medicine,’’ says Monica.
Rose considers malaria a major problem for most families in the region. “Prevalence of malaria in this village is high, but we have encouraged them to sleep under treated mosquito nets. We also encourage them to go to hospital early and get early diagnosis as it is much easier to treat it when it’s discovered early,” says Rose.
As a Community Health Volunteer, Rose visits households raising awareness of malaria. “This project has greatly improved the livelihood in most households; members of the community are very healthy and happy as far as malaria is concerned,” adds Rose.
“We sleep under a mosquito net and we don’t suffer from malaria anymore. My grandson is healthy and ready to start his school next term,” Monica says.
Education is a key component of the Amref Health Africa Global Fund Malaria project, helping to raise awareness about transmission, prevention and treatment. The project seeks to equip vulnerable families with treated nets and to educate communities about malaria, both how to prevent it and how to treat it.
By Maureen Cherongis