Acting together to end malaria requires a vast awareness-building campaign. Community leaders in rural Mozambique are fighting misinformation on the ground – one household at a time.
Calton Abudo Muagito starts his home visits early to avoid the heat. He visits five households a day. In a month, he visits 60. Community leaders select the households, while Calton and other volunteers are responsible for the outreach. He works in Memba, a coastal community of 320,000 people in Nampula Province, the most populous province in Mozambique and where the malaria prevalence rate is 66 percent. This means that Calton doesn’t have a hard time finding vulnerable, misinformed families for his home visits.
Malaria is the leading cause of death in Mozambique. In 2017 alone, Mozambique had an estimated 8.9 million cases and 14,700 deaths. Mozambicans get malaria frequently, and many rely on traditional doctors because of the lack of access to medical services. It is not uncommon to hear that a neighbor, a relative, or a friend has malaria. When a child dies in rural northern Mozambique, it is common to hear that it was due to “children disease” — an occurrence so common that it doesn’t warrant an official cause of death.
Calton, who is from a small community seven kilometers from Memba, is well aware of the importance of preventing and treating malaria in his community. He is also aware of the struggle of reaching the nearest health post. Road conditions in Nampula Province are bad, especially during the rainy season when bridges and roads just wash away, leaving thousands disconnected and at risk of malaria when they are at their most vulnerable. To make matter worse, less than 50 percent of the population in Mozambique has access to health services, and there is an endemic lack of information about malaria throughout the country.
Malaria mobilizers, like Calton, are community volunteers who dedicate their time going house-to-house to transmit key messages to prevent malaria such as the value of sleeping under a long-lasting insecticidal net (LLIN), how to keep your yard free of stagnant water, and to seek treatment at the first sign of symptoms. As a mobilizer, Calton combats a very common enemy in rural communities — a lack of knowledge. Most people in the community have no access to radio or television, and many did not go to school.