written by PCV Jess Williams, Zambezia Province
There have been many successful net distribution campaigns in Mozambique over the past few years to prevent malaria. In fact, a recent report stated that USAID had dispersed about 20 million bed nets since 2007. This is fantastic news in a country where malaria is one of the leading causes of death. However, as I am sure many other PCVs can attest to, these nets are often misused for fishing, protecting gardens, and blocking off latrines. It bothered me greatly that many of the same nets that I was helping to distribute to pregnant mothers and children under 5 at the local health center were then being used for these other purposes or sold in the market. I found that while many of the women who received nets wanted to use them properly, their husbands/fathers would take the nets and the women felt that there was little that they could do. I talked to my counterpart for my behavior change theater group (ARCUMI) about this problem. He stated that it had been a problem for years in the community. We decided to take action by creating a play about the topic.
The next week we met with the other members of the group and together we created a story of Julia. Julia is a married, pregnant woman. She goes to the health center for her pre-natal consultation and receives a bed net. During this part we cover information about why it is important to use a bed net, especially for pregnant women. When Julia comes home she asks her husband to hang the bed net in their bedroom. The husband says that he will but then he gets the idea to use the bed net to protect their garden from chickens and other animals. The next day Julia sees the bed net in the garden and confronts her husband. They get into a fight and then the husband’s mother arrives and helps Julia to convince the husband to return the bed net to its rightful place. At this point we have a member of the audience step in, and try to help the situation from the point-of-view of one of the characters. We felt that this play would be good because it would 1. empower women to stand up to their husbands regarding their health, 2. encourage family members to step in when someones health is being put at risk, 3. to create a taboo of using bed netting improperly. With this play we wanted to target men primarily, to get them to think about the impact of their actions.
We presented this play at 3 different locations in the community and received positive feedback each time. After one of the presentations a man in the audience lead us to his house nearby, there in his garden was a bed net. He started to take it down and told us that our play had helped him realize that taking the bed net from his pregnant wife was putting her in danger. It was touching to see that he related to the play and that he was willing to make a lifestyle change because of what he saw. Additionally 15 other people also pledged to use their nets correctly. It is often difficult for ARCUMI
to measure the impact of its work. We typically measure success by the number of people that turn out to watch the play, the number of people who are willing to participate, the quality of their participation (comprehension of the topic), and feedback after the play. In this particular case we felt that it was a success because of the feedback that the aforementioned man gave us. However, in the future I would like to take a survey in they neighborhood to see how much participants retained and this would provide us with the actual data.
Modelling a project successfully implemented by a previous Volunteer, PCV Dylan Yosick worked with student volunteers to execute a massive school rehabilitation project to help prevent malaria infection in the Alto Molocue district of Zambezia, Mozambique. Over 200 window screens and doors were rehabilitated or installed, and lemongrass was planted around the perimeter of the school, acting as a natural mosquito repellent and beautifying school grounds.
Peace Corps Mozambique is spreading the message of malaria prevention and treatment all throughout the country. Allison Budzinski, a 2nd year volunteer in the Zambezia province worked with her host organization WorldVision to set up various youth groups in and around the district of Morrumbala.