Tabu is a chairwoman of a community savings group in Kigoma, Western Tanzania. The group she runs helps the community with financial support and together they also use their influence to fight malaria – a battle she says they are now winning.
One very important purpose the group serves is to fight malaria through education which they are able to do thanks to the Tanzania Communications and Development Center (TCDC), which receives money through the Comic Relief and GSK partnership
TCDC use the funding to train volunteer health workers, called Community Change Agents (CCAs), in malaria education. CCAs then visit groups like Tabu’s to pass on these important health messages and equip them with the knowledge to protect themselves from the disease and know what to do it they experience the symptoms.
Tabu has a personal motivation for this work. When she was pregnant with the last of her five children, she experienced a lot of complications due to malaria. She did not take any anti-malaria drugs during those nine months. When the child was born, he was constantly sick, constantly in hospital and suffered a lot. The boy, named Hamisi, contracted malaria and died when he was a baby.
Two years ago when we first met Tabu, she saw lots of people getting malaria in her community. To try and combat this, they began to go door to door around the community, to talk to their neighbours’ directly about malaria prevention – they look at how people are using bed nets and check their home environments for stagnant water pools, which are breeding sites for mosquitos.
At this time, Tabu said that while the community knew about malaria, they didn’t know about the causes and about the prevention. Now she says that education and prevention is hugely important and as well as making sure her own family sleep under nets, she also does her best to ensure other community members take the same precautions.
Now, two years on, the great news is Tabu says she no longer feels that malaria is ruling over her community. Just one member of her family - her grandchild - has had malaria in the last year. Tabu recognised the symptoms of malaria, and took him to hospital to be tested, where he was prescribed medication and completely recovered.
She says: “It is now about two years since malaria has been an on off kind of situation. It is not like the current situation now. Two years ago, the situation concerning malaria was such that malaria was almost ruling over us. But since we were given proper information and people embraced the use of mosquito nets, a huge drop in infections was witnessed in a very large number.”
She believes that if the community continues to come together to fight malaria in this way, then it can be eliminated.
So far, TCDC has reached 300,000 people across 1,000 villages in Geita and Kigoma, western Tanzania, through their Community Change Agents over the past two years, thanks to funding from Comic Relief and GSK. Fewer people are getting malaria and the communities are the winning the fight. There is still a long way to go as globally a child still dies from the disease every two minutes, but progress is being made, and it’s being driven by determined people like Tabu.