Imagine a plague of tiny insects running wild in your community, biting children in their beds while they sleep. Imagine each bite poisoning their blood with deadly parasites. Imagine one child every 30 seconds dying of malaria.*
Then imagine stopping this killer disease.
In one community in West Africa, it was done.
In the small town of Amlamé, about 100 miles outside of Togo’s capital, Lomé, 60 children a year were dying of malaria. It was the leading cause of child deaths at their district hospital in 2015.
Why Amlamé’s Children Were Dying From Malaria
Malaria is an eerie and dangerous disease. The parasites activate at the same time each day, causing children to writhe with fever, overheat to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), vomit, have seizures and fall into delirious comas. If not treated quickly, a child will pass away.
Parents in Amlamé believed local herbs and potions would cure their children. And consequently, they were seeing them die one by one.
But children with malaria don’t have to die. In a hospital, malaria can be treated. Even better, malaria can be prevented. But in the absence of knowledge, malaria thrives.
“I did a study on malaria in Amlamé, and I came to realize that people didn’t understand the disease,” explains Julien Tchakpana, the former principal health worker of the district hospital. “They thought they could fight the No. 1 killer of their children with local treatment. They didn’t even think about going to the hospital when their children had seizures. Thus, many children died every year.”
The parents’ lack of medical knowledge was part of a bigger picture of poverty in Amlamé. Health consultations cost only the equivalent of $1, yet this was too much for farmers to afford. Meager harvests and high shipping prices for their goods mean that when it comes to household budgets, farming families must prioritize food over health care.
Simply because of $1, parents were losing their precious children.
Then in 2015, we partnered with two local churches in Amlamé to open child development centers to help relieve parents from their struggles. And to save lives.
One short year after 400 children were registered to be sponsored, no child deaths from malaria were reported in Amlamé.
Getting Malaria Deaths Down to Zero
Throughout 2015 and 2016, the centers worked with staff from the district hospital to perform medical checkups for the children, address their many critical needs, and teach them about hygiene.
Parents of sponsored children were also educated through monthly meetings. They were taught the importance of rushing a child to the hospital as soon as he or she showed symptoms of malaria.
In order to ensure parents get their children to the health center immediately, the centers arranged to pay the $1 treatment fee. With that financial burden lifted, it has become automatic that when a child is sick, he or she is brought to the hospital immediately.
Parents who used to be reluctant don’t even think about potions or infusions anymore. Now, they realize the hospital can save their children’s lives.
In addition, parents received training on how to use mosquito nets and maintain hygiene at home. Now, in most of the houses in Amlamé, families sleep under a net. The parents who attended the meetings at the centers shared their knowledge with others in the village and it has protected the entire community.
The Children Who Were Rescued
For young Grace, the intervention by her Compassion center has literally been a lifesaver. She experienced malaria fevers and anemia twice a month. Her parents had spent a lot of money trying to save her and were about to give up. That’s when they heard about the medical checkups being offered through the Compassion center.
Now, the doctors keep Grace under close observation and she is treated quickly whenever she displays malaria symptoms.
“If the center had not come to my rescue, my child would have been buried a long time ago,” says Yawa Abuga, Grace’s grandmother.
While child sponsorship provides for children’s regular care and education, our Complementary Interventions exist to help in situations like this – where a child, family or center has a vital need that cannot be covered by sponsorship alone.
For only $18, you can fight alongside our church partners to prevent malaria deaths. Your donation provides mosquito nets, medical treatments, education and resources to provide clean environments for children and their families.
This story first appeared on the Compassion UK Blog. Story and Photos by Bernard Gbagba.
*Source: UNICEF: The Reality of Malaria