A three-week absence from school was enough for Halima Molesi, 12, to fail end of term examinations.
The Standard Five learner at Chimwala Primary School in Mangochi was bedridden for two weeks with malaria.
“I spent another week at home until I was fully recovered,” recalls Halima. “I just came to school to write the examinations. Apart from missing lessons, the disease affected my ability to study.”
The Health Management Information System shows that malaria has grave impacts on families, especially children who skip lessons.
Anifa Tsegula,12, was admitted to Mangochi District Hospital for three days.
The day she was discharged, she went straight to sit Standard Four’s end of third term examinations.
“It was tough to write the exams. I had a headache. It felt like my brain was exploding,” she says.
Lucky for her, Anifa scooped position six and proceeded to Standard Five.
The two personify how malaria frustrates education and child development.
Studies in the country show that primary school children are vulnerable to the country’s largest killer disease.
According to the Ministry of Health, malaria kills six people every day in Malawi. In 2020, the country recorded about seven million malaria cases and 2 500 deaths.
The district at the southern tip of Lake Malawi has one of the highest prevalence rate of the disease during the rainy season.
Now learners have peace of mind due to indoor residual spraying (IRS) that has killed anopheles mosquitos that transmit malaria.
To combat the disease, World Vision in partnership with the Ministry of Health sprayed malaria hotspots in Mangochi for 36 days from October 18 2021. The initiative bankrolled by the Global Fund, strived to reduce the illness and deaths among children by 25 percent, targeted 336 257 households in the district of about 1.2 million population.
Anifa is excited because the initiative is protecting children safe from mosquito bites.
Halima is happy to learn without fear of malaria.
“I am assured of good health and a safe environment. I will just work hard in school and thrive with education,” she says.
Her mother, Patuma Twaibu, is reaping the benefits of the outdoor spraying initiative.
The mother of four says her children were frequently bedridden, meaning she had to take a break from her small business to care for them.
“The children could not go to school. I spent most days taking care of them and spent the little income from my small-scale business on frequent hospital visits,” she narrates.
Twaibu sighs with relief.
“My children are going to school as required and I am doing business because we are all healthy. I easily provide basic needs and encourage them to aim for their dreams,” she explains.
Ireen Msangambe, a Standard Five teacher at the school, says the initiative has increased learners’ school attendance.
“My learners’ sick book was dominated by malaria. Since the IRS activity, most of the pages are blank. I have all the learners most of the days,” she says.
Deputy headteacher Janiles Chizombwe says ending malaria is pivotal to the global goals to ensure every child learns to achieve its potential.
Mangochi district malaria coordinator Lamusi Abudu says the intervention has helped reduce the cases from 386 to 183 per 1 000 people.
“We have beaten the National Malaria Control Programme goal of reducing the cases from 386 to 193 per 1 000 people by 2022. We target to reduce the cases to 120 this year,” he says.
Abudu states that IRS has also reduced the count of patients admitted in health facilities.
“As a result, have extra malaria drugs that we send to other districts stressed with the disease,” he explains.
World Vision district coordinator Confidence Mkungula says they reached over 98 percent of the targeted households in the district to keep children safe from malaria.